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Opinion: Treatment was careless, inhumane in Chittenden jail

Open up your eyes, Vermont. The truth is about to smack you in the face. I feel all people need to know that, when one finds themselves in legal trouble and are headed to jail, like Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in Burlington, they are entering a dangerous place.
I was recently sentenced to five days in CRCF. The booking wasn’t so bad. I stated I was hungry and asked for food. They said I’d get a bag lunch, but it never came.
I had to see the nurse and brought along a med list. I stated that I have asthma and need my inhalers. I was told, “If you have an asthma attack, they have a nebulizer machine.” What?
I told them, “I’m lactose intolerant. No milk.” But it fell on deaf ears. Most of the food is made with powdered milk. “Duh, still milk.”
On many different medications I take for various reasons, I was given no asthma meds. The meds I was given were so minimal, I was to see they could care less. I lost three pounds in five days. (Editor’s note, the writer is a very small adult.)
I was put in Administrative Segregation — the hole. Mental Health spoke with me. I told them, “I’d rather do my time in Ad. Seg. due to severe PTSD. Fear of population with others. “People closing in on me, name calling the ‘N word,’ would cause me to become aggressive, my beautiful brown skin is that brown. I don’t do well with racism, zero tolerance for ignorance of others.”
I arrived on Wednesday, June 17. Depressed, yes. On Friday, June 19, for lunch we were served tacos. My cellmate D.M. and I began to eat what we could. I choked on a tomato, the rind was tough. I swallowed and the tomato went down both sides of my esophagus. I could not breathe in or out. D.M. asked, “You OK?” I shake my head NO and pointed to my throat. “Are you choking?” I nod my head.
D.M. started screaming, “Someone, correctional officers, help us, she’s choking and can’t breathe.” The entire unit heard her scream. Everyone started to scream, “Help! Help! She’s choking.” Banging on cell doors, many cried for help loudly. My cellmate turned and looked at me. I was starting to lose consciousness and fell forward. D.M. rushed to me and hit me on the back many times. Finally it dislodged the tomato with the rest of my lunch.
Thirty seconds later, the cell door opened and a very uninterested correctional officer asked if I was OK. Had I been in that cell alone, and with the time it took for that door to open, I very much believe I would have died.
So many thanks to D.M., my cellmate, for absolutely saving my life. And to all those that screamed out for help for me.
This is what I speak. I’m alive because D.M., a stranger at first, saved my life. I am grateful for her kindness, generosity, for a fellow human being.
My words to all is if you find yourself in jail, write down everything that happens. Then go to newspapers and speak out — truthfully. I was fortunate to have D.M. with me. I use initials to protect.
Respond to the papers if you wish. Do not seek me out. Proper channels. Positive outcomes. Thank you for your time to read this. Change happens when others understand and show compassion.
These jails are run by “robots,” burned-out people. They just don’t care.
A human being is a precious life. Whether you have done wrong and are being punished, you are still a human being, a life. Let no one treat you less.
I was able to leave alive, walking. Not in a body bag. Be aware. All people. May one day this world be color blind and reach to help or receive help.
Be well.
Charlene Yankton
Middlebury 

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