MY PRISON IS a “level four” prison, a medium security facility. Although, the authorities seem to prefer operating it as much like a maximum-security facility as they can get away with. The population is housed in four buildings, with three pods to a building. Two of the pods have 41 two-man cells, and the third has 44 two-man cells. Between 82 and 88 men are living in those cells, each cell barely bigger than a large bathroom. The fact that our toilets are located only three feet away from the head of our beds only reminds us that this is exactly what we are living in – bathrooms with beds in them.
The lights come on at 5:30 a.m. They are my alarm clock if I am not already awake. Some nights, I wake up hours earlier, biting my knuckle to stop from screaming. Night terrors suck. My mind is not always a nice place to be, and when stress becomes a storm in my head, it gets loud in there…even when I sleep.
First count is at 6 am. If my dreams or the lights coming on did not wake me up, this does. I am supposed to stand up so they can see that I am alive. The thing is, this little morning ritual would have more meaning if the officers actually looked into the cell when they walk by.
Pod recreation starts after count, and we go to breakfast. The food is terrible. The nearly-spoiled potatoes are rarely fully cooked, the apples are always baked to mush in a poor attempt to stop people from making wine, and it is clear they shake the spoon even when portioning the oatmeal. Lunch and dinner are a little better. Our diet is a lot of starches, ruined vegetables (never fresh or raw), and a minimum of real meat. The kitchen gets a bonus each quarter of the fiscal year depending on how little money they spend. Our kitchen manager excels at this. I do not think she has ever spent more than half the budget in the entire seven years this prison has been open.
After breakfast, pod recreation. At some point they would call outside recreation and most of the pod goes outside. But I do not. Outside recreation is a cruel joke. There are four yards, each one only slightly bigger than our pod, and there are all asphalt and chain link fences. Beyond the perimeter, you can see grass and trees, oftentimes deer and rabbits, sometimes turkeys. But you can never reach them, never touch the grass. It’s just torture. So, I rarely go outside.