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  • Writer's pictureMason Edwards!

Residual Restraints

By Mason Edwards, Rising Rock Media

Sometimes, in the early morning, before lunch and at lights out, Brittany Moser, feels compelled to stand in her room, without thought, for minutes at a time. She’s standing for prison roll call out of habit— as it’s been two years since her release.

Leaving prison was just the first step for Moser, 35, who spent three years in Cumberland County Jail and four years at the Debra Johnson Rehabilitation Center in Nashville. Now, even though she’s had to rebuild her life from scratch with the trauma that comes from serving hard time, Moser tries to stay positive.

Brittany Moser holds up her crocheted "catfish" from behind her window. Moser kept windows open as her apartment does not have air conditioning. Thursday, 20 April, 2023. (Photo by Mason Edwards)

“Whenever you first get there, you go to the west side, so you always got to watch the sunset,” Moser said. “But then here's all that barbed wire to remind you, you're not going anywhere. You're stuck.”

On September 11th, 2013, Moser drove her boyfriend at the time back home after a drug deal went wrong. Even though she never directly harmed any of her boyfriend’s four slain victims, her trial’s prosecution successfully charged and convicted her of second degree murder.

“I was dealing with my boyfriend, and, you know, we're just a couple of potheads, and I was going to ride with him over to Cleveland,” Moser remembered. “We went to Renegade Mountain, and he was supposed to just get a little bit of weed from his friend and we were going to go home.”

Life in prison permanently changed her habits, and given that her record now claims she’s a violent felon, there are few opportunities for her in the outside world. Despite enrolling in and graduating from numerous life skills classes and learning trades, like parenting and counseling, she’s currently an assistant manager at a fast food restaurant.

“Everything does a background check now, and because of the charges that I had, everything comes down to being a violent felon, even though I wasn't really involved in what happened,” Moser said. “So they look at that as me as being a violent person, even though if you're going to look at me wrong, I'm going to cry.”

Moser spent three of her seven years in a county jail’s isolation cell, which was their euphemism for solitary confinement. Not socializing with anyone for years, according to Moser, inflicted psychological trauma. In addition to trust issues with others and compulsive cleaning, her trips to the supermarket can be rattling.

“Being around people again, that's difficult,” she started to speak faster. “I can be looking at something and somebody will walk up and I'll have a full blown panic attack and almost pass out.”

According to Moser, life behind bars did reinforce the importance of a routine, which no doubt helped her when she juggled three minimum wage jobs at the same time. Only four months after her release, she had a car and apartment again.

“I would wake up at 5 a.m., I was at Burger King,” she said. “I worked there until 1 p.m., went to We Care, worked there till four and then closed at Captain D's every day, for about six months.”

While skilled as a leader in fast food, Moser yearns to help others in a more meaningful role. All around her during her sentence, other convicts were growing addicted to and selling drugs to be able to afford more food from the prison commissary.

“For a while I was wanting to do like a substance abuse counselor, but like, for some reason they just make it so hard because of a felony,” Moser elaborated. “At the prison, you know, they will give you those classes, and you go through the health department to get credited for it.”

[Photo Illustration] Brittany Moser's handcuffs lay on her Substance Abuse Counselor Paperwork. Moser borrowed the handcuffs from her younger brother, who is a police officer, and she uses them as a latch for her dog's cage. Thursday, 20 April, 2023. (Illustration by Mason Edwards)

Even with slim chances of acquiring the job she wants, Moser finds other ways to support those around her. Having worked alongside Moser for nearly two years in fast food, Chanda McMillan, 19, grew close to Moser’s naturally compassionate personality. If she panics about work or life, McMillan goes straight to Moser for advice.

“She enjoys to have fun with all of us, but she also wants to get everything done,” McMillan said. “I go to her for a lot of things, and she always says what I need to hear.”

Brittany Moser places down her crocheted figures on her end table. She originally picked up the craft from another inmate as a way to pass the time. Thursday, 20 April, 2023. (Photo by Mason Edwards)

With all the time Moser had to reflect, she’s especially equipped to hand out advice after hearing a long story. However, rather than dwell on her time in prison, she prioritizes creating new works; she crochets adorable figures and decorative bags for her family, friends and co-workers. Already in the process of creating a multi-colored unicorn, she’s also made a puppy, duck, kitten, snowman and mushroom.

“It turned into more of a therapy, and then I realized people wanted my stuff,” Moser recalled, adding that she learned the practice from another inmate at the prison. “Maybe one day I can open up my own little business. I’ve always wanted to do that.”

When she realizes she’s in her bedroom for standing count, Moser breathes deeply, leaves her bedroom and picks up her yarn and hooks.

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