Standing on the tarmac in shackles and an orange jump suit, it finally hit her. That airplane would take politician Mary McCarty to federal prison in Texas.
“Please God, the joke’s over. Please let me go home. I started to cry,” the ex-county commissioner said in her frank talk to the West Boca Community Council Tuesday.
McCarty revealed she wrote a book on life after serving 22 months in a federal prison camp for women in Bryan, Texas. She’s keeping the title under wraps. “I name names,” she said.
She was one of the first felons to register and vote after the state’s new law passed, she added.
The career politician plead guilty to accepting hotel rooms from a firm doing business with the county and steering bond business to her late husband Kevin. She was released in 2011 and served three years’ probation.
He served less time for not telling authorities about her activities, she said.
“In January 2017 we found out my husband had pancreatic cancer. He died last August,” in 2018, she said. They got through serving time by “focusing on what was good in our lives.”
Their biggest concerns afterward were practical. How to make a living. Would they be accepted?
Prison changed her, said McCarty, 65. Now she thinks of her former self as arrogant, prideful, “the opposite of humility.”
“I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore,” she said. “You don’t have the last word. You listen more and talk less. I don’t judge anymore.”
“You learn who your friends really are and people came out of the woodwork,” she said. Some 350 people wrote her in prison.
She lived with three other women in a small room with bunk beds and a desk in between.
Most of the women were from a different world than McCarty, who took her educated middle-class life for granted. She kept her background quiet for months, but her vocabulary gave her away.
No violence was allowed. Offenders and their victims were both sent elsewhere. Permanently.
McCarty got through serving time by structuring her day. She worked in the kitchen, the library and as mentor for people who wanted to earn a high school degree. Not as many as she had hoped, she said.
Lunch was at 10:30 a.m. The inmates could spend 90 minutes on art, yoga, walking a track. Dinner at 3:30 p.m. Network TV on until 10 with ear phones. “I wrote letters at night and did a lot of reading. I stayed busy.” Each day was “closer to the door,” she said.
What was the hardest part, someone asked. “Feeling irrelevant. People came to me to solve problems,” she said. “No one was checking in with me for my opinion.”
By Marci Shatzman