I’m the Black 72-year-old former nurse who spent 3 months in a Minnesota jail for assaulting a white coworker. This is what it was like.
- Sybil Garbow, 72, was jailed in Minnesota following an assault conviction that she wants to appeal.
- The jail was a minimum security facility, but Garbow said it was still difficult for her.
- Now that she’s out of jail, Garbow is considering appealing her verdict.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Sybil Garbow, a 72-year-old Black woman who was jailed this year in Anoka, Minnesota for assaulting a white coworker. It has been edited for length and clarity. Garbow, who lost her nursing license as a result of the conviction, has a donorbox to help her pay restitution.
In my three months at the Anoka County Workhouse, I felt the environment was substandard.
The sink, toilets, bathtub, and showers had water stains and chipped porcelain, and the water that came out smelled like rotten eggs.
When I said something about it, one of the staff just told me, “You’re not here to be pampered. You’re here to be punished.” Some of the community correction officers at the facility liked to pick on inmates, but most others were nice people.
They didn’t make any dietary adjustments for inmates like me. I have diabetes, hypertension, and cholesterol issues, but everybody ate the same thing. The food was horrible.
Breakfast was a glob of peanut butter and some kind of cake mix or cornbread mixed up together, and sometimes a boiled egg but nothing else. I would eat the cornflakes they had sometimes, but it was just sad. They said one meal was goulash, but it was just overcooked noodles and tasted terrible. As for the meat in it, I can’t even describe what that was.
My husband ended up bringing me lunch at my work release job.
I shared a room with a few other inmates. I had to ask the medical team for an extra mattress cot and extra pillows. When they asked me why, I told them I have a history of synovitis and arthritis. Plus, I just looked at the staffer and said, “I’m old.”
The inmates in the facility had a lot of respect for me. They would come to me and vent. I would tell them teamwork makes the dream work. Because we would put together these 1,000-piece puzzles, and then we got to the point where everybody shared with each other. Some of them cried when I was leaving. They hugged me and told me they’d miss me and to keep in touch. I felt really, really respected there.
When I was released at about 5 a.m. on Tuesday, my husband met me at the door. He said he was lonely without me, and he took a few days off of work to spend time with me this week.
The day after I was released, I got a call from my parole officer telling me I had missed a communication that I thought I had addressed. I told her I followed the process, and she said, “No, you have to go up and push the blue button.” I had done that, but it glitched when I tried it the first time. But I didn’t want to argue with her because she was saying, “Oh, we see you have a Donorbox. We are going to be monitoring that because that money is for the victim. If you do not follow through, you’ll be right back in front of the judge.”
My husband and I fully intend to pay the restitution, which stands at $51,657.38. It just felt like indirect threats. They were sending me messages before I even left the workhouse.
But it feels wonderful to be free. I can get up when I want, eat whatever I want, and nobody is telling me to go back to my room. I’m trying to follow all the probation rules to stay out of the workhouse.
There is a big injustice problem in Anoka for Black people. I was hoping that if the case went to trial, I would have justice, and the truth would come out. They didn’t even give me the opportunity to look human. That trial was just horrible. I want an appeal because this is me, the way people are going to see me. The truth has to come out.
Editor’s note: Business Insider contacted The Anoka County Workhouse for comment.