“A difficult one here,” the officer had noted as she refused his order to undress. “Gentlemen: would you strip her and put her over the bench?”
The three warders stepped forward, used to dealing with reluctant new inmates. She lashed out, striking one in the face; kicking another. In a moment, she was overpowered. The clothes she’d worn to court were forcibly removed, ripped in the process. “Well you wouldn’t have needed them for a couple of years anyway,” they’d laughed.
Pushed face down over the wooden block. Wrists tied with leather straps. Legs pulled apart; ankles bound in position.
“Now,” the officer in charge had said. “Fifty strokes, according to the form from the magistrate. And with behaviour like that, I intend to make them count…”
Asleep, that night, in the bare cell in the punishment wing. At least, what passed for sleep – face down, the excruciating pain of her flogging hard to ignore. Replaying the day’s events over and over. Guilty? Preposterous. And to be whipped, too?
Footsteps outside, in the dark. Keys in the lock. The door swinging open, as a light flickered on.
“Here she is.” She recognised the voice before her eyes adjusted in the gloom. “Right little mischief-maker. Real bruise on my shin from her, I have.”
“We can’t be having trouble from the girls, can we?”
“Especially not the new ones. Start off badly and they’ll be difficult all the time.”
“She needs to be taught a lesson.”
Three of them, pulling her to her feet. Pushing her to her knees. “Let’s teach her some respect…”
Facing the governor, peering at her from behind desk. ”Stand up straight when I’m addressing you, girl.”
“Now… the medical report.” Reading from a handwritten form. “‘No evidence of assault… no evidence of sexual activity.'” Scrumpling the form, tossing it into the bin.
“But sir… My bruises… My…”
“Be quiet. You’ve had plenty to say already. I shall invite further comment should I require it. Which I don’t. Now… Officer Jenkins allegedly leading the purported attack.” Another piece of paper, studied carefully: “And yet our security system logs every movement through the building, and shows clearly that he wasn’t here that night.”
The sheet torn into pieces.
”Photographs taken by each of the men on their iPhones.” Another document. “Sworn testimony from Mr Jenkins that he only possesses the most basic of Nokias. His phone duly inspected by the Director of Operations, and found not to have a camera.”
The paper following its predecessors into the wastebasket.
“It seems you are a troublemaker, young lady. And I don’t like people making trouble in my reformatory.”
Boldly: “I’m telling the truth, sir.”
“It’s usual for the caning a girl receives on admission to somewhat dampen her fighting spirit. Clearly yours didn’t have the necessary effect.”
He pressed the phone on his desk, which buzzed into life. “Please come and take the young lady back to the punishment cells.” And then he looked up once more. “Three more days in solitary, and then we will repeat your fifty strokes. And following that, I suggest that for your own good you keep your head down and do precisely whatever is expected of you…”