Upon arrival at the USDB, I was greeted by Bob, the “heavy” from the “White” section. He briefed me on rules, customs, courtesies and the social structure of the prison. It was Bob who made sure I had the correct furniture for my room (a chair, locker, and a plastic container) and corrected any deficiencies (I was missing my chair and the lid to my plastic container). Bob was friendly, almost effusive compared to the few stone-faced inmates I’d encountered previously.
The most disturbing thing about my room is the bizarre toilet/sink combo fixture. If you’ve ever watched “Beyond Scared Straight,” you’ve probably seen one of these bad boys. The sink is a basin in a solid stainless steel column and a toilet bowl juts off to the right of the column. There are three push-buttons above the basin: flush, dispense hot water, dispense cold water. The water comes out of an old-school water fountain-style spigot.
At first, I was highly suspicious of this fixture, but I’ve grown accustomed to its lurking presence in my room. If nothing else, it’s extremely efficient; the sink drains into the toilet bowl. I just hope it doesn’t draw from the toilet bowl as well.
Bob also showed me the common areas. There are three, each with a television mounted on a stairwell that leads to rooms on the second level. Each TV belongs to a section: the Whites, Brothers, and Latinos. New inmates are free to choose which section they want to join. There are some white people in the Brothers section and the Latino section is a mix of latinos, asians, native americans, and others. The separate sections split the population into something similar to platoons. The sections have a chain of command and standardized procedures for raising grievances and concerns. The different sections interact easily, workout, and play games together, so though they’re separated along racial lines, it doesn’t result in any tension.