Numeric Identities – The Day 823469 Replaced Ruth Utnage    by   Ruth Utnage

Back in the early 2000’s I took an Alfred Plea of Guilty on a Burglary 2 charge. It was my first felony and even though I didn’t commit the crime, I knew it was happening and did nothing to stop it, I was just as guilty. Didn’t spend any time in prison and was let out of county jail after 60 days and probation. Because I was now a “felon” I received a state identification number, or a DOC number.

When I reported to my PO’s office for the first time she asked me for my number, I gave her my phone number, then my social security number and even my driver’s license number. She was not amused and I was very confused. I didn’t know of any other numbers to give her. I didn’t associate myself with a “number” at that point. She gave me my DOC number and warned me to memorize it, that it was my primary source of identification from now on.

I just threw it away. What she was saying wasn’t making any sense, it was illogical at best.

Then I committed another felony, this one got me a life sentence. Something changed in me the second I stepped off the chain bus in a bright orange jumpsuit shackled along with 30 other people. In that moment, I remembered my number. 823469. This became me.

Everything I am became wrapped up in those 6 digits so fast that I didn’t even recognize I did it. Suddenly the terms felon, offender and inmate all applied and for some reason, that number made sense to me. Ask me for my number now and 823469 comes to mind and you know what doesn’t? Social security, phone, or driver’s license numbers. In fact, it makes so little sense to me to rattle off any of those numbers that the few times I’ve been asked for them I was cautious and a little annoyed by it because none of them applied. Who cares about my SSN? It doesn’t mean anything anymore.

The words of my PO swirl in my brain still to this day and that was 16 years ago. I can still see her brow twisting in anger as she believed I was messing with her on my first encounter. I can still remember exactly how she scribbled my DOC number on a Post-It note and shoved it into my right palm defiantly.

My identity is shamefully composed of 6 digits that I so wholeheartedly embraced and I can’t help but wonder was that because I was confused about who I really was? Is that the state passively saying “if you don’t know who you are, we’ll assign a new identity”.

Food for thought.

With Love
Ruth Utnage

Feel free to contact me, a little human contact is always welcome

Ruth Utnage fka jeff 823469 C-601-2
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA. 98272

or via Jpay email service (you have to use my birth name, but, please do not call me by it, my new legal name is Ruth)

Jeff Utnage