It’s been a busy week in federal prison.  I moved to a different cell and now have two new room mates or “Bunkys”.  One of them is a beautiful Native Women named Antone from a reservation in Arizona that’s very close to the Mexican border. She’s very calm, which I like, and she’s almost done serving a 2 year sentence. I find her life and culture so interesting.  She lives in an adobe hut made from mud with dirt floors and only about 3 times the size of the cell we live in now. Thy have an outdoor shower and toilet and live in the middle of the desert. There aren’t any stores on the reservation and no work.  The closest town where she could buy food is about 15 miles away. Many of the Natives on the reservation live in these adobe huts because they can’t afford anything else and they can build the huts themselves. Sadly, according to Antone, the only source of income on the reservation is either smuggling illegal’s or allowing people involved with the Mexican mafia to store drugs in their huts or on their property.  Antone was charged with storing over 2,000 pounds of Marijuana in her house.  I asked her how they could even fit 2,000 pounds of marijuana in her little hut? She said, “It was in bales and filled the entire house.” I asked how much she was paid for storing it and she told me, “Around a thousand dollars.  I was staying somewhere else at the time so I didn’t actually see the drugs but I was told it was baled like hay and packed in there pretty tight.”  I was joking and told Antone I heard from other inmates that the reservation is a good place to bury a dead body. She said, “Oh no, they take them over to Mexico to bury them or give them to the old man who feeds them to his pigs.” My other room mates name is Ryan and she is here on a white collar charge too. Ryan’s plea deal was exactly the same as mine 0 to 7 years, her case involved millions of dollars, embezzlement from American Express and she was sentenced to under a year in prison because she didn’t have a criminal history.  I told Ryan, ” I don’t have a criminal history either and the judge gave me the maximum sentence of seven years.” I guess I made the feds angry when I insisted on going to trial? When I told her about the treatment that I received while in US Marshal custody getting a mental evaluation she said, “They treated you worse than a terrorist, that’s torture! How were they able to hold you in those conditions until you plead guilty? Do you think the prosecutors and judge knew what was going on?” I told her that I didn’t know yet if they were aware of the treatment I received, but I plan on finding out.

Yesterday was my first photography class and it was so exciting for me!  Registration for the class  was held on Tuesday and over 150 women signed up.  It was neat to see them so excited to participate. I took around 35 students because that’s all I could fit in my first class:)  A special thanks goes out to David Perry, a true friend who has helped me more than he could possibly know. Through his efforts I was able to share with my students the family video that David did for us right before I came to prison and an old demo video from my Photography By Portia days that he did for me. The women were crying and cheering and were very inspired by his work. It meant so much to me! Prison is so removed from the outside world, we have very little color and very little inspiration in these walls. I am impressed daily by the creativity and talent that I witness coming from a place with so few resources, a little bit of effort from people on the outside can go a long way in here. I have worked for months to make this a great program and the help that was provided made a huge difference in women’s lives, some of which have very little hope. If you ever need a family video or wedding video, David Perry films is the best of the best! He does a lot of humanitarian work as well and is truly a person that has made a substantial difference in my life and many other lives. David also emails me inspirational thoughts almost every day, thank you David I love you and your sweet family!

Last Sunday was my birthday and I enjoyed a peaceful day but didn’t let any of my friends in here know that it was my birthday:) Word got out somehow and my friend Patty orchestrated a surprise party with a bunch of my friends today. I was touched to spend some time with my fellow sister inmates and appreciate that each one of them found a way that they could contribute to make it a great party. They made burritos and cheesecake from various items from our commissary list and it turned out really nice. Life is so simple and structured in prison so anything special really stands out. It’s been a good week and I am grateful to have a way to share my experiences with all of you