I wake up to a soldier knocking on my cell door. It’s 1331 (1:31 p.m. for you non-military types). The soldier is one of my treatment counselors for the Reasoning & Rehabilitation (a.k.a. R&R – but obviously not the good kind) treatment program I’ve been attending for the past few months. The classes are two days a week for about six months. I wasn’t on the pass roster today so I thought the class had been cancelled – apparently not. Now I’m late for a treatment. I get up and take a leak in my trusty toilet/sink combo unit. I pee into the toilet sideways so my back faces the door, not wanting to give anyone a free look at my junk. Some genius designed the pod so that, when squared to the toilet, taking a piss allows everyone in the common room to take stock of your delicate bits. I wash my hands and find that my towel isn’t dry. The steamer in the laundry is down. I hate getting up this early on a work day. I decide to make a quick breakfast before I go to treatment. I put a packet of oatmeal, a scoop of peanut butter, and some sunflower seeds into my special version of tupperware – a small, round container left over from a special order of christmas cookies. I put two scoops of freeze dried Folger’s coffee into my cup and push the button on my cell intercom. The guard in the control booth comes across the intercom – “Control.” I ask him to pop the lock on my door. The door opens with a harsh, metallic click. I make my way groggily to the opposite wall of the pod’s common area where the hot water pots are. I put a little water into my oatmeal and coffee cup. I sit at one of the metal four-person tables that are bolted to the floor throughout the common area. My treatment group might be waiting on me, but I decide to take a few minutes. I need this coffee – this freeze dried coffee. I put my bowl back in my cell and walk over to the side door that connects my pod to the medium custody pod next door. Between the two pods are a couple of offices and a classroom used for group treatment. I push the intercom button next to the door. “Control.” I tell the guard I’m going to treatment. “Go get your blouse.” I’m wearing my white under shirt with my brown uniform pants. This is a first. I’ve gone to treatment without my over shirt on before. Ugh – but not a huge deal. So I go back and get it. I finally get into the R&R classroom and I see that four people are still missing. both guys from N pod are missing. They must still be on lock-down for the two fights that happened last week. One guy walks in shortly after me and the facilitator says that we need to begin. Today’s class is about controlling our emotions. One of the guys argues for a while about people not being able to control their emotions, only their reactions to emotions. We list what makes us angry and share our top three triggers. Thankfully, class ends quickly, the counselors seem to have some place to be and our late start meant they couldn’t conduct a full session. I go back to my pod and see they’re issuing monthly rations a day early. I’m glad – I’m running pretty low on coffee. I sign for my rations and put them in my wall locker in my cell. I’m pretty well-stocked on rations now – after spending almost $80 (the maximum allowed) for the first time. A couple of guys in the pod ask me to play dominos with them. I play for about 45 minutes before I go over to the phone to make a call to a friend. I talk for the full 30 minutes allowed at a cost of about $10. What a rip-off. This phone card company gouges us like crazy. Still, it’s cheaper than the company we used when I first arrived here. By the time I finish with my phone call, it’s 1550 (3:50 p.m.) and they’ve announced work recall. All the day-time workers (the majority of the population) start streaming back into the pod. the noise level picks up and the prison news gets spread. Word has it that one of the more childish and annoying inmates was taken to the SHU (special housing unit – a.k.a. max security) for horsing around with another inmate and bumping into a guard. The guy annoys me, so I’m not too torn up over the news. More to follow. xoxo — Russ
If the maximum security unit is at one end of a spectrum, at the other end is the Trustee Unit. Trustee inmates get to go outside the facility and live in minimum security housing areas outside the prison fence. They’re allowed to go to the Post Exchange (PX) once a month and buy items such as video games and TV’s. These prisoners have generally been in the USDB for at least seven years without getting into any trouble, they’ve been through two custody boards and are considered extremely low risk.
I heard through the grape vine that one of these Trustees recently attacked and attempted to restrain a female guard – apparently because she’d told him he couldn’t walk around barefoot. I don’t think she was harmed, but I can imagine the horror from essentially being kidnapped by an inmate. The guard was one of the nicer ones who didn’t go out of her way to make life harder for Trustees. Some people deserve to be here.
To go outside for my running work out isn’t as simple as just walking out the door; there is a process. Sometime during the day before recreation time I have to put my name, room number, and planned activity on the “Recreation Sign Up Sheet” located at the guard desk in my housing unit. To do so, one obviously needs a writing utensil. Usually there is a pen at the guard desk.
This past Saturday, however, there was no pen.
So the guard, a timid Army private, asked me if I’d leave my pen at the desk for other inmates to use. I look pointedly at his left forearm where the tips of three pens are protruding from the pen-pockets in his uniform.
“Umm…why can’t you just let us use one of your pens?”
“But I’m only allowed two pens. To get another one I have to fill out a form and wait…and they’ll probably wonder what happened to my other pen. I’ve only been here a few months.”
“Well, do you mind leaving one of them here?”
“Why don’t you just draw one from supply?” I asked.
“Only the CTT sergeant has access to the pens and he doesn’t work on weekends. I can’t get one.”
I wanted to scream, But you have three pens in your pocket! I can see them! WHY is it against the rules to let me use your pen? You’d be watching me use it!
But I didn’t scream. I went back to my room and I got one of my two hard-won pens. With the hope of being seen favorably amongst the guards, I left it at the guard desk all weekend, watching anxiously over it to make sure no one stole it before the guard could draw another from the supply closet on Monday.
The incident reminded me of my travails at the county jail I spent a few weeks in before being transferred to the USDB. I’d had to fill out what looked like a scan-tron form just to get a pencil. The guard there, also laden with writing utensils, looked at me like I was crazy when I asked him how I was supposed to fill out a form to order a pencil without a pencil. He said, “Figure it out. But you can’t use my pen, ‘s against the rules.”
Catch-22 is alive and well.
In other news, the medication call line was twice as long as usual tonight. It’s amazing how this always seems to happen when the 6-foot-tall, busty blonde nurse is working… I just wonder how inmates figure out when she’s on shift before they even announce medication call.