A Typical Day in Prison

Don’t come here!

We wake at about 6am typically, go to breakfast which consists of either oatmeal, grits or cereal.  Either corn, or bran.

We return to our units or go outside to workout at either the weight pile, or on bikes, stair steppers, or we go to our respective jobs. Either at Unicor, or other duties.  [However, usually the weights are all taken up by youngsters who are bodybuilders and the guys how really need them can’t get on them for the delinquents who lord over them.]

Then at 10:30 am we return to the units and wait to go to lunch. After that it’s the repeat of the above unless we are done where we might go work on our case, watch TV or read, or go to the computers to communicate with our relations. Then it’s back to the unit by 3:30pm and get counted, then we return to the chow hall for dinner and back to either the units for TV or back to recreation or exercise. Or it might be a trip to the library to work on our cases.

We are back in the units by 8:30pm and ready for the night, or read, or TV, showers etc.. Counted again by 10pm and time for bed.  That is supposed to be a typical day. On weekends, skip the work, and add an extra count at 10am and you got our schedule. But, they hardly ever go like that.

Now I have a saying, I’m not complaining, just explaining. So here goes. Many mornings are plagued with fog, or a fight, or maybe some unseen medical emergency. Or maybe someone with a little power just decides to mess up the schedule because they can.

I don’t go to the breakfasts anymore because the lines are forever. I cannot after 20 years of the same meals get the food down without taking pieces like pills and swallowing it with gulps of water, since the line for milk takes forever.

Having been in three maximum security prisons for over 7 years, I got a little ptsd so when I hear yelling, I automatically think it’s a fight or riot. Or I think it’s a shakedown or some other distress and trip. Often here now that I am in low security, there is an officer that enjoys torturing us or thinks our sentences away from family and freedom is not enough so they do stuff like yell at us, talk down to us, or swear at us, and kick us out of the unit for hours in the sun with little shade.

If this happens, you got to try to grab what you need for the hours you’re going to be homeless or you will be sun burnt and miserable. For instance, recently they had a big shot come to visit for one day. They took weeks of cleaning and driving us crazy for a dog and pony show that our particular unit didn’t even get visited.

I’m talking we were kicked out in some of the hottest days of the year, for 26 hours in 7 days. This in a medical facility with people in wheelchairs and all kinds of medical problems which go on untreated for years and years. Again, explaining.

Now, I am a Christian and a former pastor, so I know complaining can be sinful. But, sometimes we suffer needlessly if we don’t stand up for what’s right. The apostle Paul asked if it was lawful for a Roman soldier to scourge a Roman citizen? That question put fear in the soldier because in those days, it was not lawful. Not without a hearing.

Once at USP Lompoc [which I spent 12 years at] the men and their visitors suffered for a year with no heat for no reason. As soon as I went to the Captain, he fixed it and said they didn’t know about it, and I believed him. We become so fearful when we are being oppressed that we lose our ability to think straight. Why suffer needlessly, Paul didn’t.

So, many mornings certain officers punish inmates just because they can. Men who are on their days off or on sick leave, are kicked out of the units just for what is called cleaning, but is often just a time for the officers to just get rid of inmates because it’s quieter and they can hang out with the favorites. This is prison.

Often in the chow hall, things are run out of before you can get to eat them. Often people whose friends or race that are working the chow line, give the inferior stuff to the people they don’t care about. If we go to commissary, we are charged maximum prices for defective and rejected items because they can. They did this for years with the phones.

People who made $5 a month paid 23 cents a minute to make a long-distance call while free world people can make as much as $5000 a month paid 2-3 cents a minute. This is prison. It’s changing but not much and very very slow.

We have the worst of the worst representation of the world’s nations here. Some are as I have said elsewhere, wonderful people. But often, it’s the disrespectful, self centered, ignorant rejects of the world that end up here, and having to live with them, yelling all hours of the night, cutting lines, threatening people. Stealing, lying, and just being them, is extremely hard.

I have spent the last 20 years trying to change these learned behaviors. I have a master’s in theo centric counseling and was a licensed counselor, and a bachelor’s in religious education. My graduates have become excellent members of their communities for the most part. But, it isn’t easy here, even more so in a low custody prison. Because in high custody prisons, people are much more violent and it keeps people in check believe it or not.

Today, I went to lunch for Veterans Day. It was supposed to be pizza, which being Italian, I am a fan of. But when I got there, it was a 3 inch by 3 inch and 1/4 of an inch, what looked like to be, a wafer. I was so mad. I wrote the administrative staff about it. But nothing will improve because they are deaf to this kind of stuff here. In higher level facilities they listen, but not here. I am positive it doesn’t meet the requirements of nutrition and weight we are supposed to get but, these folks know the closer you are to the door, the less you’ll complain.

The only reason I am here is I am supposed to get a cardio conversion for my heart problem, but I’ve been waiting for 3.7 years and it hasn’t happened yet, and I don’t expect it to. People are dropping dead here left and right that could be saved and no matter who we write or complain to, it doesn’t change. This is prison. Please don’t come here.

They are short of staff here so often things like the computers, or the recreation or the library are closed. Even though you might be in the middle of your appeal. I’ve seen copiers down for weeks and weeks. If I tell you about going months in the wintertime without heat or TV’s being broken for years, you probably wouldn’t believe it, but it’s true. This is prison in the wealthiest nation in the world.

Lately we had a scabies epidemic here and a bout with chicken pox. Much of the problems here are from poor management.

I’ve been to many facilities and seen it run much much better. So, I have to try to figure out, where to complain, and when to just take it. Especially since I don’t want to be punished more than I already am. Now I understand why people just plead guilty to crimes even if they are innocent. To avoid all this.

In the past we have been locked in our units for staff parties, and other non-essential things and it can drive you crazy.

There are times we haven’t had commissary for seven weeks, and yet have staff tell us to get our medicines at commissary.

We have watched men complain while spitting up blood and be neglected, only to die. Some of us have been interviewed by the Office of Inspector General even about all this treatment, yet, all that’s done is a report and nothing more.

This is prison. In the midst of it all, the limited calls with recordings going off constantly, with people fighting while your typing on a computer at 5 cents a minute, with many mentally insane screaming all night who belong in an asylum and not here. We try to keep our sanity. At least where I am has a view and is closer to home for my family to visit, I keep telling myself.

The other day I went to on a medical trip that was 1 year too late. I had already gotten over my sickness, that’s how behind they are. The officers spent the whole time looking at their smart phones. I came into prison before smart phones, is that what it’s like out there? How sad. It’s also much more crowded than I remember and the cars all look the same? Small.

Anyhow, this is prison, don’t come here. Only the mad can enjoy it here. The more normal you are, the worse this will be for you. This is prison. Don’t come here. Sorry that I can’t paint it prettier but I would have to lie.