Her first introduction to drugs was at 14, three years after her family had been brutally attacked by her grandmother’s husband in their West Virginia home.
“He shot my grandmother eight times. My mother was stabbed 27 times. My seven-year-old brother was stabbed twice.”
At the time of the attack, Briscoe was in Kentucky visiting her father.
“It was bizarre the way it ended up, me not being there when the attack happened,” Briscoe says. “That was the first time I ever spent a weekend with my dad. I was blessed.”
Briscoe’s grandmother didn’t survive, but her mom and brother did.
“After that, my mom just gave up. She couldn’t take care of us anymore. My brother went to live with his dad. By then, my dad had committed suicide, so I had nowhere to go.”
Cassie was put into a group home. She ran away.
“I was introduced to drugs by an older couple that I met in an old, abandoned project. The guy was a pimp, and the lady was his lady. Once they got me, they pinned that job on me, so they could get money. That was my first experience with sex and drugs.”
Cassie stayed with the couple for about a year. Eventually, she ran away.
“There is so much of that time period that I don’t remember, and I thank the Lord for that.”
Briscoe had been an addict for half of her life.
“There were times when I went a year or six months [without using], but drugs kept pulling me back. I did them to take the pain away. Any uncomfortable feeling I felt, I said, ‘Okay, I need a drink; I need some drugs.’ I didn’t want to feel my emotions. [They] were too intense.”
Cassie believes her recent recovery has everything to do with faith. She credits her sobriety on her involvement with her church, The Rock.
“I started getting high downtown. Some random drug addict handed me Miles McPherson’s book [Do Something Now] while I was at the Golden West Hotel on 4th Avenue. I’m in this tiny room with some really bad people. There were some beds in there, and barely a sink. I was sitting on the floor, reading the book and crying. I was thinking Miles McPherson used to be a drug addict, and now he’s successful and walking with God. I decided to start going to church again, but I had one foot in, one foot out.”
Shortly after that night, she was arrested.
“Six days after being arrested, I got on my knees and accepted God. I was in bunk 23 at Las Colinas, right by the bathroom. The door kept swinging open, because there were 50 women in there peeing, all night long. They kept screaming at me to shut up, and I was like, ‘Leave me alone, I am accepting Jesus Christ into my heart right now.’ In that moment, things really changed for me, and it’s not just a story. Things really changed.”
Briscoe says that Las Colinas was easy compared to other jails she has been in. The 28-year-old has done time in Miami Dade County Annex System, and was extradited to Jacksonville.
“Las Colinas is more like a boot camp than anything else. There are women in there that put their feet up and treat it like their home. They see a six-month sentence as no big deal.”
Because of good behavior behind bars, Briscoe became a sewing trusty. Her job was to make prison uniforms.
“When I got transferred to the sewing section, I was like, ‘Where am I? Happy Camp!’ They had a Wii over there, and all the girls were dancing. We could drink as much coffee as we wanted. We even had bows on our beds.”
“Some people come [to Los Colinas], and this is like a vacation,” Maya says of the jail she now calls home. “All their friends are here. They see it as a luxury. They even try to get back in here after they are released.”
Maya sleeps in an eight-by-eight room shared with two other women. She is in the lowest security level at Las Colinas. She is also a trusty.
“Before that, I lived in a dorm with a large group of women. There were 30 bunk beds lined up against the wall. I was with 30 roommates all day, every day. It was horrible. I remember one female came up to me and said, ‘What are you here for, meth? I said no, and she said, ‘You don’t do drugs!’ She looked at me like I was the stupidest person in the world.”
Within a week of her incarceration, Maya had witnessed the bloody beating of a fellow inmate in one of the bathrooms. She also became familiar with the withdrawal symptoms of meth and heroin.
“This place should be a rehabilitation center, not a jail,” she says.
Being a trusty has helped Maya’s time pass more quickly. Five days a week, she works in the kitchen as a prep cook, from 2:00–10:00 a.m. When she isn’t working, she sleeps, reads, or works out.
“I pretty much don’t leave my cell. It’s like going out into a sea of sharks. There are people in here that handle problems by beating the shit out of you. It’s weird being surrounded by prisoners, but it’s easy to stay away from them.”
Maya says she was surprised to run across normal people serving time in Las Colinas.
“I think my biggest surprise about this place is that there are some good people in here. I’ll keep in touch with them when I get out.”
Charlene Autolino, is the Rock Church’s prison-ministry leader and chair of Bonnie Dumanis’ Reentry Roundtable, a program that guides convicts back into the community after incarceration.
“There is more shame involved in being a female behind bars,” Autolino says. “When you go to Donovan on visitation, there’s a line out the door for the men getting visits from their mothers, girlfriends, or wives. Over at Las Colinas, there are no lines for those women. I bet only about five percent still see their children.”