The Story Behind Good Girl’s Guide to County Jail by Ellen Marie Francisco


Good Girl’s Guide to County Jail was conceived in a large population dorm at Glen Helen Rehabilitation Center in Devore, CA. I was arrested on August 5 2013 for the first time ever, and I was shackled and shuffled between three jails in less than a week. I ended up in a dorm with one hundred beds, and the chatty women who filled them. You couldn’t help but hear conversations about all kinds of desperate situations they were in, and the legal conundrums to go with them. It was horrifying, and exasperating. We all shared a level of frustration as we negotiated our freedom without essential supports within the jail system. We had to rely upon each other.

With nothing but time on my hands, armed with a short pencil, some lined paper, and a whole lot of naivety, I decided I would interview as many girls as I could to learn what they’d learned about the court process and how to prepare for it. Most girls thought I was a narc at first, and didn’t believe I’d been arrested for car-jacking, assault with a deadly weapon and robbery. Regardless, I was determined to create a survival guide of sorts for the women who would invariably follow in my wake. It was evident the system was warped and corrupt. It was clear we needed all the help we could get. And I definitely didn’t want to get convicted of something I hand’t done. So, there was the sense I didn’t want to miss anything vital, or that may help prevent someone else from living this nightmare.

I wanted to help enlighten and empower people to the many traps the system sets, and to provide a snap shot of the third-world country that the Incarcer Nation really is.

I’d been thinking about starting a publishing company for years, and I was enticed with the idea of being able to test the waters with a book that could potentially transform lives. This is the first book I’ve published, although I’ve written two novels, a true crime memoir, and a series of short stories that were completed long before this project even entered my consciousness. I’d shopped them around to agents at writer’s conferences off and on for years.

I was pretty sure a traditional publisher would have preferred my jail-time memoir I Stand Corrected, which I content edited out of Good Girl’s Guide to County Jail for the Bad Girl in Us All altogether, but I wasn’t ready to share that first time out. I hadn’t even emotionally processed the experience in its entirety yet. It was the promises I’d made to girls I’d seen struggling in the jail system that drove the book forward, and the intent to reveal injustices we all witnessed in county jail and in court the whole time we were in there. I wanted to get the message across, now that I’d witnessed it first-hand, that the American family – every man, woman, and child were vulnerable to the destruction the criminal justice system commits every day whether they’re an inmate or not. It’s a national crisis. My desire for social reform far outweighed my need to stick with a traditional approach to publishing or to worry about how publishing it myself might affect a writing career that hadn’t even launched yet.

About the Author

Canadian born Ellen Marie Francisco worked in feature film development and production in Toronto on Canadian Content film projects partially funded through Telefilm Canada in the ‘80s. She was transferred to Los Angeles in the early ‘90s to help expand the production company into Los Angeles. Her work in the entertainment industry continued for decades under a NAFTA Investor Visa in Los Angeles, and environs with her catering company Amazing Graze. Her resort community Real Estate business Cabin Ready operated to the point of her untimely arrest.

Francisco has also worked in the publishing industry. Along the way, she landed a job with writer Sidney Sheldon as a proofreader and fan mail response writer. That experience and her tenure in publishing helped shape her own voice.

Her work as a photographer in Toronto and California in the early ‘90s landed her backstage access to Cirque du Soleil and one of her first print credits. She has sold and/or shown photographic works in galleries on the Big Island of Hawaii, in Los Angeles and Toronto. The book is filled with her raw and captivating vector artwork, a visual storyboard to her harrowing journey through the “Incarcer Nation.”

Francisco is the adoptive mother of two children and a Chihuahua named Piglet. They currently reside in Ottawa, Ontario.

Her latest book is Good Girl’s Guide to County Jail.

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