At the Clark County Detention Center (CCDC) in Las Vegas, Nevada, male and female inmates are housed under one roof, separated by mere floors, but worlds apart. From intense affection to extreme aggression, for women, doing time is a life of treacherous contrasts.
No figure embodies these extremes more, perhaps, than the “jail mom.” Older, wiser, steeped in the ways of the convict, the jail mom’s influence can be benevolent or vengeful, nurturing or violent. Younger inmates are helped on their way as they break into prison life, or held under their sway. Officers rely on cellblock matriarchs to maintain order and stability, but must check their power lest they become “shot callers” or “tank bosses.”
Tess Collins, 50, is a self-styled jail mom. She’s been locked up at the CCDC in Vegas twenty-two times, mainly for dealing drugs. Tess tries to coax younger inmates out of the “game” before they fall in too deep, before it’s too late, using her own wasted life as a cautionary tale. She abandoned her own children and sees her role as a jail mom as a one of redemption. But when she’s released on bail onto the streets of Vegas, she learns a painful truth: jail may be a better home for her than freedom.
Rosemary Vandecar, 54, is another kind of jail mom. She is remarkably eloquent, a voice for peace and harmony in one of the hardest tanks in the women’s jail. But her pacifism is belied by her charges – 1st degree murder; and her goodwill is assailed by skeptical inmates and thwarted by wary officers.
One inmate who doesn’t question Rosemary’s intentions is her “daughter” Denise Crocketts, 22. Pinky, as she is known, is a self-described goofball, with a violent streak: she’s in for second-degree murder. As hard as Rosemary tries to keep her in check, the hotheaded Denise is baited into fight after fight. Her misconduct in jail will affect her sentencing – and the more of her life Denise spends in prison, the less of it she will spend raising her own two-year-old daughter.
Tune in to Hard Time: Jail Mom, Tuesday September 4th at 9P et/pt.