Here is a blog that I forgot to post. It's a bit old, but this was what Jeff's day was like up unitl about 2 months ago. Now he is on an out crew and works at a church cleaning up the place. It's about an 8 hour job every weekday. Jeff says the work is somewhat redundant, but at least he feels like a normal person getting out of the compound and into the town. I have a quarterly update from Jeff coming soon as well. Now on to the blog.
I wrote a entry a while back about a typical day. I didn’t complete that blog because it was getting long. I believe I left off at about the time lunch ended. (My brother’s day has since changed dramatically. He is now on an out crew, where he goes to a church and cleans up the place, such as mopping, moving chairs for events, cleaning bathrooms, etc. He has written about this, I just haven’t entered it on the blog yet). Most of the days are filled with your work assignment (at this time my brother was handing out recreational equipment). I’m fortunate that I work in the mornings. Technically, I work from 8 am to 2 pm, but I’m only at my job from 6:15 – 8:15 am. Some guys have to go back to work at noon, when they finish lunch. I don’t have to do that. So, I have from noon to 4 pm for free time. That sounds nice, but prison is pretty boring. This is the hardest time for me to fill. One reason for this is that 5 months out of the year it’s too hot outside to do much exercise. Some guys really like the heat. I’m not one of them. (When I visited in July, as some of the readers may recall, the temperature was 111 degrees. It wasn’t pleasant. – Scott). So, during this time, I try to write a letter or do a craft project. After a while, writing hurts my hand, so I try to mix in some reading and study. I read my advertising and marketing textbooks, and sometimes a novel or a magazine. I have to digress here about magazines. It is fascinating the part magazines play in prison.
One of the most interesting things about prison culture is the way magazines get shared (a little like comics, but I’m a bit more protective of comics). We have three trash cans at the front of our dorm. When someone finishes a magazine or newspaper they leave it on the garbage can. I glance through tons of magazines here mainly to find stuff I can use to make a craft for my wife of kids. I had noticed that the address labels on the magazines were torn off. I asked someone why they did that, I thought it was because they didn’t want others to know who was subscribing to what magazines. The reason is far more interesting. You are not allowed to have another inmates property in your cube. You will get a disciplinary notice if you do. So, the inmates tear their names off of the magazines so that if a guard sees you with a magazine, they cannot determine ownership.
I have also seen some crazy magazines (adult magazines are not allowed, by the way). One of my favorite odd titles was not for its content, but for its title was “Trailer Life.” I couldn’t wait to read about trailer park living. Well, it was about RV’s, and I still can’t believe that there is a magazine for that, much less what I thought it would be. There was another one about log homes, the whole thing was about that. I’ve even seen a magazine about fashion. Although, for pure selection, your local Borders or Barnes and Noble have a greater variety. Although I have read magazines called “Star Wars Insider” and “Toy Faire.” Excellent stuff.
After reading and writing for a few hours, I can get through to 4 pm. At 4pm they do mail call. Mail call is simply passing out the mail. But some guards make even this simple task painful. They will insist on butchering names and only issuing mail to the name on the mail. It’s far more efficient to have the inmates grab it and pass it out to their bunkie or friends. They know where they are during the day, whereas the guards do not. One time I had to show my ID card to get my mail. After mail call, we have a count. I’m usually reading a newspaper or my mail up to and through the count. There are only two newspapers that arrive daily, the USA Today, and the Wall St. Journal. I get the USA Today, and I trade that for the Wall St. Journal. This way, I get both papers.
Now it’s dinner time, around 4:30. We have a five week rotation for food. The lunches are usually better than the dinners. With the new management group that took over in mid-August, the dinner fare now comes with liver. We get liver twice over the 5 weeks. In compensation for that, we get pizza twice over the 5 weeks as well. All in all, the food is okay. It get repetitive, but I don’t mind it. Except for the liver. (Jeff now eats while out on work crew. He gets more normal meals, such as Chinese food, pizza from a local place, and sometimes even a hamburger and fries. He says this is the best thing about work crew, normal outside food.)
After dinner is another block of free time. The prison gives us about 15 minutes to eat, so we finish dinner before 5 pm. The evenings, however, have more activities for the inmates because the inmates are done with their jobs. Usually there is a softball, soccer, or basketball game. Softball appears to be the most popular sport here. I watch it occasionally if a friend is playing. More often than not I walk the track after dinner. Most of the bible studies are in the evenings as well. Lights go out at about 10:15 pm. You can still go to the tv rooms and watch tv most of the night. However, the “yard” meaning the library, and indoor and outdoor recreation areas close at 9:15 pm. At this point you are locked in your dorm until about 6 am.
So, what do I do to entertain myself. I’ve probably discussed most of the activities before, but here are a few things I probably haven’t mentioned. Friday night is movie night. This didn’t mean much to me when I first arrived because most of the DVD releases in the summer aren’t very good (see previous blogs about the tv rooms and movies - Scott). The Fall brings with it the summer new movie releases that are now on DVD. So, in October and November, we had some decent movies. So, when these two times a year (Fall and Spring (after the Christmas releases) movie night becomes more of an event.
Friday mornings are the weekly inspections. This doesn’t involve me much, but it has an impact on me. Basically, all I do clean (mop and sweep) my cube for the inspection. However, if we win (this is based on overall cleanliness of the dorm compared to other dorms) three things happen. The main one is that the entire dorm gets 1 soda and a bag of popcorn each. We also get to eat first. Lastly, the order in which you finish determines which day you shop. It’s nice to go to the commissary with it is fully stocked.
We got to shop one day a week. This is not like your grocery store or Target. It’s like going to 7-11, but with only 1 aisle to shop from. I can only buy 4 types of candy bars and 3 types of soda. This is considered a very good commissary from some guys who have been around. I really like Dr. Pepper, but I can’t buy that here. Maybe that’s a good thing. They don’t sell tartar control toothpaste either. It’s strange dealing with a limited supply of stuff. Maybe this is what communist Russia felt like. Nevertheless, shopping is a highlight of the week for most of the guys. It allows them to buy stuff to cook in the dorms (Some guys never go to the cafeteria to eat). I don’t place as high a value on shopping, but it is a nice distraction.
The athletic leagues are a significant way to consume time as well. I have greatly enjoyed playing semi-competitive soccer again. It takes your mind off of the routine here. That’s the main thing here. The routine will get you through the time, but the distractions keep you sane during the routines.