Disclaimer: The following stories are one woman's experience. They do not speak for all inmates, and prison conditions vary across the United States.
Jessica Kent has 400,000 YouTube subscribers and 671,000 followers on TikTok. She's raising her two daughters in Chicago and just got engaged to her true love.
At first glance, one might look at the 31-year-old's life and see the American dream. But Jessica's story is far from perfect.
Jessica told BuzzFeed that between the ages of 12 and 23, she battled drug addiction. This landed her in prison for the first time at the age of 17 for criminal sales of a controlled substance.
She served one year in a New York prison, then violated her parole. Jessica was arrested again and charged with three additional felonies: possession of meth, delivery of meth, and possession of a gun. This led to a five-year prison sentence in Arkansas.
She's been out of prison for about seven years now and is nine years sober. In that time, Jessica has become a full-time YouTuber, received her Bachelor's degree in correctional program support services, and is currently working on an autobiography. Her YouTube and TikTok content is comprised of informative videos about her prison experience, drug addiction, and recovery.
Here are 14 eye-opening experiences Jessica has shared on TikTok from her time in prison:
Jessica gave birth to her first daughter while she was serving time, and she was shackled to the hospital bed. "That was the most traumatic experience I've ever gone through in my entire life," she said.
Her legs were shackled to the bed as she delivered. After her daughter was born, she was taken into foster care. When Jessica was released from prison, she worked for over a year to finally get full custody of her child.
If women had their period, their needs were often ignored by the correctional officers. Jessica saw some women who had bled everywhere, but it still took hours for the officers to bring them clean clothes or sanitary supplies.
The Arkansas prison refused to give the inmates tampons. They would give each woman 2–3 pads per day if they asked, but sometimes the correctional officers said no because "they were out of them." The women would use the few pads they had to create makeshift tampons.
The prison served something called "meatwad" during dining hours. It was literally written on the menu as "meatwad." Meatwad was a ball of mystery meat that was hard, smelled terrible, and had weird fibers in it.
Breakfast was typically comprised of orange juice, milk, coffee, really mushy oatmeal, powdery eggs, and old bread. Jessica said the meal was just enough calories for a typical breakfast meal, but it was very difficult to choke down.
Some women get into sexual relationships with the correctional officers. This is illegal, so the officers are charged and arrested if they get caught. Jessica said they almost always get caught because the inmates see everything going on.
If inmates wanted to iron their clothes before a visitation or court date, they had a special method. They would fold the clothing as perfectly as possible, put a little water on the crease, then place it under their mattress. After sleeping on it for a night or two, it would typically look "ironed."
The people who had the most respect in prison were "lifers," aka people who committed murder and are spending the rest of their lives in prison. The people who had the least respect in prison were "chomos," aka child molesters.
The sleeping situations in prison were difficult for Jessica. When she was in an open dorm, she only felt comfortable falling asleep when most people were already asleep. She felt more relaxed in a "closed tier" where she had one other roommate — but in a closed tier, you have to sleep on top of the bed (blanket and all) instead of inside the bed because everything needs to stay tidy.
Jessica got in trouble at the prison in Arkansas, and her punishment was having to be in a "chain gang." For hours a day, she was forced to be outside in the blistering Southern heat and had to dig up the grass with a gardening hoe. She didn't get any water breaks and had to continue even when her hands were cut up and bleeding.
Lastly, Jessica talked about what someone's last day of prison looks like. It's considered disrespectful if you take any of your hygiene products or food into the "free world," so people often give a lot of their belongings to fellow inmates. Then you go to intake, change into normal clothes, sign a bunch of forms, and brace yourself for the outside world.
"Prison itself taught me how unfair the system can be," Jessica told BuzzFeed. "However, it was in prison that I made my decision to stay sober, go to school, be an entrepreneur, and much more. I began believing in myself by working on myself. It is my hope that sharing my story will help those still struggling with addiction, parole, poverty, or anything I've been through. We are not defined by our past."
Follow Jessica on TikTok if you're interested in hearing more stories like these.
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