Book Review: Good Girl’s Guide to County Jail by Ellen Marie Francisco
Title: GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO COUNTY JAIL
Author: Ellen Marie Francisco
Publisher: Scribbles and Ink Publishing / Friesen Press
Millions of viewers have made the television series “Orange is the New Black” a pop culture sensation, but Ellen Marie Francisco (http://www.EllenMarieFrancisco.com) has no interest in watching it or reading the memoir, by Piper Kerman, which spawned the hit show.
Francisco has lived her own version of “Orange is the New Black,” an experience she refers to as “innocent in oranges.” “Oranges” is prison jargon for the orange jump suits worn by prisoners who have been charged but who have not yet been to trial, Francisco explains.
Francisco, an author and entrepreneur, describes her experience behind bars in her latest book, GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO COUNTY JAIL (FOR THE BAD GIRL IN US ALL). A gripping and candid tale of her journey through three California jails for women, GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO COUNTY JAIL (https://books.friesenpress.com/store/title/119734000025993982) also serves as a resource guide for navigating the legal thickets necessary to surviving what Francisco dubs the “Incarcer Nation”.
GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO COUNTY JAIL “is a call to action to remedy the lack of support for pre-sentenced women sitting in jails across America who are not educated enough to understand what they’re negotiating in the courtroom,” Francisco explains, “and for the women who don’t realize how close they already are to the courthouse steps.”
Francisco was arrested in 2013 in Lake Arrowhead, California and charged with carjacking, assault with a deadly weapon and robbery after an incident involving her impounded car. The charges were ultimately dropped, but not before Francisco had served nearly two months in three county jails. While locked up, she talked to hundreds of women “each on a different path without a definitive end, each living with the certain fear that they were not in control of their own lives.”
Those conversations became the nucleus of GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO COUNTY JAIL.
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Wow, where do I even begin with this? Good Girl’s Guide to County Jail was an awesome read. Self-made business woman, realtor and mother of two Ellen Marie Francisco goes to get her car out of impoundment jail. When the person behind the desk tells her that they don’t take checks, she takes it upon herself to go get her car and drive it out of the lot. Big mistake – the impoundment jail police stop her, she is arrested and embarks on a journey quite foreign to her. Being locked up when you’ve never been to jail was an eye opener to the point where she thought maybe women (and men) on the outside needed to know what really goes on in the inside and in a lot of circumstances, the situations are quite ridiculous.
For one thing, though, if impoundment jail didn’t have a ‘no checks allowed’ sign up, they would have an argument, but if not, that’s a rude awakening for someone walking in with a check wanting to get their car out of jail. With that said, because the author needed to be at a certain place at a certain time, she was desperate and took it upon herself to go get her own car and drive it out of the lot. I would say that’s probably not a good idea. If she hadn’t done this, then she wouldn’t have ended up in county jail. They say all things happen for a reason so Francisco decided to turn lemons into lemonade and gather information from the inmates and lawyers so that people on the outside would know what to expect should they find themselves in the same situation.
But what was eye-opening to me was the fact that all these inmates had a story to tell and because of the laws of the land which we all need no matter how ridiculous they sound, they were inside because of an action they took they shouldn’t have taken according to the law books.
What also opened up my eyes is that the ‘being in jail’ stigma lasts forever. Once you are in jail, people get this perception you’re a bad girl. Francisco did not commit armed robbery. She didn’t kill anyone. She was not selling drugs and she didn’t abduct or kidnap anyone except for her own car. Not everyone in jail fits that mold. But the law is the law.
I read this book from cover to cover in one sitting. Hearing from the inmates who wanted to remain anonymous about life behind the bars was a head-shaking revelation. The lawyers she interviews added helpful tidbits about such things as why sentences are getting longer, plea bargaining and other great information I wasn’t aware of.
Everyone needs to pick up their copy of Good Girl’s Guide to County Jail to gain insight instead of being judgmental.