I'VE BEEN SERVED

My Daily Journal in Federal Prison

Purpose

Welcome to my Daily Prison Journal.  From the day that I am incarcerated (May 10th, 2011) until the day that I am released (estimated December 5, 2014), I will be documenting my daily experience within the confines of federal prison.  I am hopeful that this site will be educational for those about to experience the same predicament or…at the very least, entertainment for those who are intrigued.

For your own peace of mind, I am a first time offender of a non-violent crime. No citizen has been financially or physically injured.  (Some might even applaud me for what I’ve done, which is not the kind of validation that I need or condone.) I have accepted full responsibility for my actions and I am hoping to turn my situation into something positive. At times, I may use humor in my posts — however, I take my situation very seriously and I mean no disrespect…but sometimes comedy can be the best medicine for an uncomfortable situation…for both me and my audience.

Day 248 – Part II

Last week, I heard what could have been the most puzzling sound to ever come out of a prison toilet stall. Some guy in there was clearly taking a dump…and out of the same stall came the sound of him cracking open a soda…and pouring it into a plastic container. How refreshing.

*

On the last day of Christmas, the prison gave to me:

1 Milky Way

1 Snickers Bar

1 M&Ms

Three Musketeers

2CocoaPacks

1 Bag of Pretzels

Roasted, Salted Peanuts

1 Chocolate Brownie

1 Pack of Cookies

Tiny Bag of Cheez-Its

Honey BBQ Chips

Small Bag of Cheese Curls

2 Soft-Baked Cookies

Plain Potato Chips

1 Coffee Cake

1 Marble Pound Cake

Peanut Butter & Cheese Crackers

Bag of Party Mix

White Cheddar Popcorn

Chocolate & Yogurt-Covered Pretzel

1 Plain White Bagel

1 Big Bag ofHolidayCookies

And…

1 Honey Buuunnnnnnnn.

*

The holiday meals here are something to behold. Let’s begin this recap with the first in a string of big-meal blowouts — Thanksgiving.

My first Thanksgiving here was probably the most melancholic experience that I have had thus far, especially considering that it was my favorite holiday on the outside. I’ve always enjoyed this holiday because of its lack of religious significance, the 4.5 day weekend, the precursor to the rest of the holiday season, and the opportunity to flex my culinary muscle in the kitchen. This is also the one holiday that my wife and I typically do not have to travel out of town for and instead entertain her amazing family at our home in the city. I would also be missing the annual tradition of the long walk that my wife and I usually take through the quiet, cold, and deserted city streets (“a kind of hush”) on the morning of Thanksgiving.

In a rather pathetic attempt at recreating that walk, I took a few laps around the rec yard track before the big holiday meal, listening to tired pop renditions of holiday classics and admiring the double razor-wired fence. After jumpstarting my metabolism, I was ready to get stuffed. On the menu: one large, generous portion of succulent turkey breast, homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, instant stuffing, palatable cranberries, salad, and pumpkin pie. Whoo-wee.

Afterward, I was ready to be carted out of the Chow Hall in a wheelbarrow. Being a Federal holiday and all, most of the compound would be shut down in the evening, so we were handed a bologna sandwich brown bag (for dinner) on the way out.

With my belly full of holiday tidings and my shit sandwich under my arm, I started the long trek back to the housing unit (“o’er the compound, among the hoods, my cinderblock house I go…”). Along the way, I began my mental countdown. 10…9…8…7…6…

Inmate: “MAN! That meal was trash. I remember when they used to give each inmate their OWN whole turkey…TWO kinds of pie…(etc., etc., etc.).”

Repeat, ad infinitum.

It never fails. And it normally doesn’t even take that long. Somewhere along the way, the inmates forgot where they were (prison) and who they were (prisoners). This isn’t some 5-star resort where they could lodge a complaint with the management. I suppose the ultimate “message” of Thanksgiving — being grateful for what we have — gets lost in an inverse correlation to the number of years that each guy serves.

Honestly, I was surprised that we had received anything special at all. A meal of this size and quality couldn’t have been cheap. Hooray for your tax dollars.

The Christmas holiday meal was even better. Aside from the very generous holiday gift bag that each inmate received (see above), the meal that preceded the gift distribution was nothing short of spectacular: a thick, Flintstone-sized slab of well-roasted beef, a small mound of baked ham (the first of which I had since my incarceration), mashed potatoes & gravy, pecan praline desert, mixed veggies, and salad. Considering the large Muslim population here (they don’t eat pork), there was plenty of extra swine to go around.

Surprisingly, I heard fewer complaints at this meal than the last. Not much praise, but fewer complaints.

The grand finale of this holiday meal trifecta was the bountiful feast served on New Year’s Day. My anticipation and excitement was, however, tempered with a mild disappointment. I’ve previously described my love affair with the infrequent Sunday pancake brunch…well, it just so happened that flapjack day landed on the same brunch slot as our holiday meal — and we obviously wouldn’t be receiving both. Beggars (or inmates) can’t be choosers, but the eventual meal more than made up for the bait & switch.

Perhaps “management” had listened to the “customer” complaints, as this time were all treated to our VERY OWN expertly roasted Cornish game hen, complete with the usual sides, and for desert — an extra-large slice of coconut creme pie, of which I ate the shit out of.

‘Tis the season to be hustlin’…and many inmates are chronically “thirsty” (that is, poor and looking to make some money.) The first thing that came out of their pocket when they sat down to eat was a clear, plastic sanitary glove in which they stuffed their tasty fowl and carted it back to the unit, ready for sale to the highest bidders.

*

Remember when Snoop Dogg went from the “Church to da Palace”? Well, I made the same trip…when I got a new bunky a few weeks ago. You may recall my last celly was a guy named “Bless” — an older brother from theIslandswith a strong commitment to his Christian faith. While I was at work one day, the cops came through our unit for their weekly inspection and discovered some contraband among my celly’s belongings.

They found his spray bottle full of Pine-Sol which we used to keep our cube extra-sparkly prison clean. While I can certainly understand WHY inmates are not allowed to have a spray bottle in their possession (who wants a blast in the face with some caustic chemicals, anyway?), it’s unfortunate that something that is ultimately used for good would lead to my man being kicked out. You see, within two-man cubes, the bottom bunk is a privilege that is designated based on seniority and it can sometimes take up to 2-3 years to even get one. Nearly any infraction or sanction taken against you would be cause for having your bottom-bunk pass revoked for 90 days.

So, when I came home from work that day, I not only learned of my bunky’s fate, but I met my new celly who, oddly enough, was just released from the Hole where he spent 35 days “under investigation” — an all-encompassing umbrella category allowing the prison to hold any inmate in the Hole, at any time, for any reason, without actually imposing any further disciplinary actions. My new cell — I’ll call him “Knight” — was released without getting a “SHOT” (incident report) which thereby allowed him to regain his previously-held, bottom-bunk pass.

Apparently, my new roommate may hold the Unit’s record for the most write-ups and has racked up many trips to the Hole. The Bucket. The Corner Pocket.

But you know what? “Knight” and I have been having a great time. He’s actually a very kind, charismatic, young black man and he has been nothing but respectful of my space. I was a little nervous the first night of his stay when there were no less than 5 or 6 of his homies in our cube at any given time…complete with some impromptu rap battles…but those activities have quickly dissipated.

Actually, it will never cease to amaze me how many friends you automatically inherit in here, just by associating with someone. Now that Knight is my cell…I’m his “dude.” And all of HIS “dudes” are MY “dudes.” And vice versa. And I’m talking about the same guys that wouldn’t give me the time of day previously…but would now take a punch on the mouth for me.  My dude and I are the new “Felix & Oscar” of Unit B.

Day 238 – Part I

I thought I had died and gone to a less marginal prison.  The kind that has a gourmet bakery.

You know those evil muffins they sell at Starbucks that are packed to the hilt with cream cheese?  The ones with muffin tops the size of large UFOs?  Well, they served those for breakfast this morning and I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I don’t know where they came from and I don’t care. I just hope they keep on getting ‘em.  A moist, freshly baked pumpkin spice cake surrounded by a plump, cream cheese pillow.  Nom, nom, nom.

*

Is it just me, or is it weird how there’s no holiday songs about prison?

*

HOW TO EAT A BANANA IN PRISON

1. Avoid unnecessary eye contact.

2. Hold fruit below chest.

3. Peel quickly and without innuendo.

4. Break off an inch of peeled fruit with thumb and forefinger of opposing hand.

5. Insert piece and chew with mouth closed.

Repeat.

*

WHY YOU HAVEN’T HEARD FROM ME IN SO LONG

 

I think I’ve become institutionalized…no, not in the ass-raping, tattoo-getting, gang-affiliating way…but in such a way as the things that once seemed so odd and foreign to me here no longer seem that strange.

The fleeting joke of “Hey Mom! Look at me! I’m in prison!” soon became the sharp reality of “Oh shit…I’m in PRISON.”  Not that my experience has gotten any worse since I arrived here last May…au contraire.  In fact, it’s gotten somewhat comfortable (not a good thing, necessarily), yet I’m feeling less like a tourist on some “extreme” vacation than I do an actor playing a bit part. And since becoming ingrained in the prison lifestyle, it’s difficult for me to assume a me vs. them (blogger vs. inmates) mentality…because, for better or for worse, it has become more of an us vs. them (inmates vs. prison) reality.

Which is why I am forcing myself to “come up for air” again and to view this experience as new and fresh…and to remind myself that it is definitely not normal to be here. So, expect much more frequent updates in the New Year. Unless the Mayans‘ prophesies ring true…

Oh yeah, and I owe you some answers to your thoughtful questions from a few months back. Coming soon…and part II of this update later this week.

*

PRISON LINGO

Instead of “thank you,” say “good lookin’,” which is shorthand for “thanks for looking out for me” or “good looking out on my behalf.” (At first I was flattered by all the compliments.)

Example of proper usage:

“Hey brother, drop that stinger.  The cop is making his rounds and will be coming through here in a minute.”

“Good lookin’.”

*

ANOTHER REASON FOR MY SILENCE

I feel totally ridiculous for saying this, but…I’ve been busy.  I know, that may be hard to believe and I’ll be the first to admit that many of you are leading much harder lives making a living and feeding your families.  Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I’ve been KEEPING myself busy.  Big difference.

It’s very easy to imagine prison as a bunch of lazy degenerates lying around all day doing nothing — and while there certainly ARE elements of that behavior — prison is what you make of it.  If you have the motivation and the spirit, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t come out of here a better person than when you first came in.

So, how exactly have I been so busy? Here’s a peek at my schedule. Monday through Friday, I get up around 5:45 a.m. and go to breakfast.  At 6:30 a.m. I have a 30-minute Power Yoga class (more on that soon).  My job in the data processing unit of Unicor (Federal Prison Industries) begins at 7:30 a.m. and runs through 3:30 p.m.  After work, I go to Chow, and then I work out for another hour or two with my “crew.” By the time I get back to my Unit, it is usually around 7:30 p.m., at which time I take a shower, do laundry, check my e-mail, and call my wife.  Before bed, I write letters and catch up CNN.  I then read until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer. Repeat.

On the weekends, I read, exercise, work on my writing projects, catch up on magazines/newspapers in the Leisure Library, and watch the institution movie (if it appeals to me). I don’t watch much t.v., or at least not anything regular.  Wednesdays used to be my t.v. night when I would watch X-Factor and American Horror Story, but both shows have recently wrapped up.  Every now and again, on Saturday nights, I might catch “48 Hours Mystery” on CBS.

Oh yeah, and I’ve also got involved with Hobby Craft — ceramics, oil painting and calligraphy (more on all of that soon).

*

Overheard in the TV room:  “Is that ‘GH’ or ‘One Life to Live’?”

*

I grew a moustache-soul patch combo this past November.  My hispter bros from my hometown were diggin’ it…some  other guys told me to shave it immediately…and a few more said that i looked, um, “ethnic.”

Proof positive — I was at the prison pharmacy filling out a prescription form and a nurse asked if I could translate for another inmate.  She had assumed I was hispanic.  (I guess this is only funny if you know who I am.)

*

An inmate from my Unit was recently selected, at random, for a breathalyzer test.  He registered a false positive because he just ate a honeybun. It contains a high amount of yeast. Just tell that to the next officer that pulls you over.

*

My prison job isn’t that much different than most jobs in the real world.  We typically spend the morning discussing what we’re having for lunch.  Then we find ways to work hard at hardly working — paper shuffling, aimless walking, impromptu meetings, etc.  We return from lunch at the last possible minute.  We watch the clock as if our lives depend upon it.  We invent scenarios that would allow us to leave work early.  And many of these guys would rather sit in a stinky bathroom stall on an extended poop break than sit at their desk feigning productivity.

Oh, and the gossip…anything from which prison employees are having affairs with whom, to which inmate was caught giving another a BJ in the closet.  We have an enormous dry-erase board that details recent changes and updates on standards for performing our jobs.  At the very top of this board, in red, someone  wrote — “If this were GOSSIP, you would read it!”  The same could probably be said for all of the mass e-mails you get at YOUR job, with subject headings like “Corporate Communication.”  Does anybody ever really read those?  It’s so much easier to ask the Office Manager what’s what and then watch her get angry at you for not reading the relevant e-mail.

Although, unlike the cutthroat nature of many jobs in corporate America, very rarely would any inmate throw another inmate “under the bus.”  Because that would be snitching.  And in Prison 101 you learn that a snitch is the greatest severity offense next to being a chomo.  This rule is particularly amusing in my job here at the Federal Prison Industries, considering what it is we do exactly…ensuring that inventors’ patents adhere to the standards of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.  Moreover, we have several layers of Quality Assurance whereby the more experienced inmates check and verify the work of the less experienced, before the patents can even leave our factory.

The QAs are held to a quota of writing a certain number of error sheets — that is, writing up inmates who incorrectly process a patent.  But, of course, a lot of guys refuse to write error sheets because they don’t want to “snitch.”  Can you imagine if the same logic applied in an automobile plant?  “Jimmy forgot to add the brake pads again.  Oh well, I wouldn’t want him to get fired….let’s just pass this one through.”

Oh yeah…and I bet YOUR computer monitor doesn’t just start randomly smoking like a chimney.  True story.

*

PRISON LINGO

“Jack my wreck”, i.e., fuck up my routine, mess with me, play around, make things difficult for me, etc.  Origin = carjack my automobile.

Example of proper usage:

“Man, that nigga coming over here to do pull-ups in in this shower stall when he KNOWS it’s my favorite joint.  Why he always tryin’ to jack my wreck??”

*

Prison Pet Peeve: Why do all of the inmates here insist on typing their e-mails in ALL CAPS…and then never to turn it off for the next guy??

*

Happy New Year.  It was nice not waking up with a hangover this year…although, I did wakeup in prison.

What I Read In Prison – 2011

The following is a list of books I read last year, beginning with my incarceration on 5/10/11.  While they all have their own merits, an asterisk precedes those titles that made an especially strong impact.  As always, I’m interested in your recommendations — in particular, literary dramatic fiction, imagistic and minimalistic poetry, and compelling memoirs.

FICTION

Benioff, David — THE 25TH HOUR

Carlotto, Massimo & Videtta, Marco — POISONVILLE

*Chabon, Michael — THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY

Connelly, Michael — THE NARROWS

*Coupland, Douglas — ELEANOR RIGBY

Coupland, Douglas — GIRLFRIEND IN A COMA

*Coupland, Douglas — THE GUM THIEF

Coupland, Douglas — MISS WYOMING

*Delillo, Don — FALLING MAN

Del Toro, Guillermo & Hoga, Chuck — THE STRAIN

De Saint-Exupery, Antoine — THE LITTLE PRINCE

*Egan, Jennifer — A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD

*Eugenides, Jeffrey — MIDDLESEX

*Foer, Jonathan Safran — EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE

Franzen, Jonathan — THE CORRECTIONS

Hogan, Chuck — PRINCE OF THIEVES (Re-published as THE TOWN)

Johnston, Terry C. — ONE-EYED DREAM

Johnstone, William W. — THE LAST GUNFIGHTER: IMPOSTOR

*Kirn, Walter –MISSION TO AMERICA

Kirn, Walter — THUMB SUCKER

Kirn, Walter — UP IN THE AIR

*Kundera,Milan– THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING

Lehane, Dennis — MOONLIGHT MILE

Lehane, Dennis –MYSTIC RIVER

London, Jack — WHITE FANG

McCarthy, Cormac — NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

*McInerney, Jay — THE GOOD LIFE

Moore, Christopher — YOU SUCK: A LOVE STORY

Nesbo, Jo — THE REDEEMER

Palahniuk, Chuck — HAUNTED

Paretsky, Sara — TOTAL RECALL

*Salinger, J.D. — THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

Stein, Garth — THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN

*Toole, John Kennedy — A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES

Vonnegut, Kurt — CAT’S CRADLE

*Vonnegut, Kurt — SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE

*Wolfe, Tom — A MAN IN FULL

*Yates, Richard –REVOLUTIONARY ROAD

NON-FICTION

Abercrombie, Barbara — COURAGE & CRAFT

Braithwaite, E.R. — TO SIR, WITH LOVE

Bramwell, David — THE BOOK OF HARD WORDS

*Buford, Bill — AMONG THE THUGS

Burroughs, Augusten — DRY

Cullen, Dave — COLUMBINE

*Didion, Joan — BLUE NIGHTS

Didion, Joan — SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM

Didion, Joan — THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING

Frey, James — A MILLION LITTLE PIECES

Gardner, Chris — THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

Halpern, Justin — SHIT MY DAD SAYS

*Hamilton, Gabrielle — BLOOD, BONES & BUTTER

*Hoff, Benjamin — THE TAO OF POOH

*Hornbacher, Marya — MADNESS: A BI-POLAR LIFE

*Karr, Mary — THE LIAR’S CLUB

King, Stephen — ON WRITING

Kushner, Sam & Schoenberger, Nancy — HOLLYWOOD KRYPTONITE

Latza Nadeau, Barbie — ANGEL FACE: THE TRUE STORY OF STUDENT KILLER AMANDA KNOX

Levine, Nancy & Wilson the Pug — THE TAO OF PUG

Levitt, Steven D. & Dubner, Stephen J. — FREAKONOMICS

Levitt, Steven D. & Dubner, Stephen J. — SUPERFREAKONOMICS

*Malone, Calvin — RAZOR-WIRE DHARMA: A BUDDHIST LIFE IN PRISON

Maull, Fleet — DHARMA IN HELL: THE PRISON WRITINGS OF FLEET MAULL

Mazrich, Ben — BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE

Mazrich, Ben — RIGGED

Montiel, Dito — A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS

Norling, Ernest R. — PERSPECTIVE MADE EASY

*Sedaris, David — WHEN YOU ARE ENGULFED IN FLAMES

Simpson, O.J. — IF I DID IT

Steele, Ronnie — MY OWN WORST ENEMY: A MEMOIR OF ADDICTION

Strunk, William Jr. & White, E.B. — THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

Sudo, Philip Toshio — ZEN GUITAR

*Walls, Jeannette — THE GLASS CASTLE

Wurtzel, Elizabeth — PROZAC NATION

SELF-HELP

*Fiore, Neil, PH.D. — THE NOW HABIT

POETRY

*Collins, Billy — THE TROUBLE WITH POETRY: AND OTHER POEMS

*Simic, Charles — THAT LITTLE SOMETHING

GRAPHIC NOVELS

Miller, Frank & Mazzucchelli, David — BATMAN: YEAR ONE

Day 145

OH-NO-HE-DIDN’T.  (Oh, yes he did.)

Earlier this week, our Counselor had posted a notice in his office window.  A small group had gathered around it, grumbling under their breath.  As I peered over someone’s shoulder to get a better view, I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

To paraphrase:  “effective immediately, you will no longer be able to reserve a seat in the large, multi-purpose TV room.  All seating is first come, first serve.  If I find any newspapers, books, towels, water bottles, magazines, radios, headphones, etc. on a chair or on the tables, they will be confiscated.  If you leave the room, even for a moment, you must take your belongings with you.”

Sometimes I surprise myself at how far I have come in the nearly six months that I have been here, how well integrated and accepted I have been by the other inmates, and how quickly my attitudes have changed regarding certain behaviors.  Shortly after my arrival on the compound, I took real offense to guys “owning” seats in the TV room.  But just weeks thereafter, I came around to the philosophy that there are so few things that an inmate can control while in prison…therefore, why not allow those with seniority the privilege to sit where they choose, and to even claim a spot?  I’ve even taken this one step further by leveraging this system to my own benefit and I often “hold” a seat for myself on nights when there is a movie that I’d like to watch.  In fact, there are even a few spots in the TV room that would loosely be considered as “mine” by me and the other inmates…but I still would never go so far as to kick a new guy out of my seat if I found him sitting there.  Nor would I “gently” inform him of the ownership of said chair, yet still allow him to sit there for the time being.  After all, I hate it when dudes play the “that’s-my-seat-but-you-can-sit-there-for-now” card…then why say anything to begin with??

What’s astonishing to me is that some guy (presumably someone fresh off of the bus) snitched on his fellow man and brought this behavior to the counselor’s attention.  That’s an unforgivable offense.  And whomever said something to the Counselor better hope that they remain anonymous.  I can guarantee that it was one of the chomos, who have been all but banned from that room anyway.

The memo was posted on Monday of this past week.  Guess what has changed since then?  Absolutely nothing.  Not even temporarily on the afternoon that it was posted.  It’s funny, too, because A) the Counselor NEVER goes into that TV room, so there’s no chance that he would have ever noticed this behavior on his own to begin with without someone bringing it to his attention, nor would he ever (moving forward) have the opportunity to enforce this rule and confiscate any items; B) there’s no way that an actual cop would do anything about this because they understand the system that inmates have in place, and C) this was clearly a “Unit” memo, and not a new prison policy, so there was really no way to properly enforce this because the rule doesn’t officially exist.

And besides…even if this new rule WAS enforced, what inmate would be brave enough to dip his toe in the water and actually sit in a seat that was previously owned by another inmate without revealing himself to be the snitch?

Perhaps the Counselor realized all of this himself — or maybe he felt that he did his “part” by addressing the inmate’s concern and posting the note — because the memo was taken down today, not even a full week after it was posted.

Carry on my wayward sons.

*

Institution Movie:  “The Grace Card

*

Lunch:  Sloppy Joe

Dinner:  Breaded Chicken Patty Sandwich

Day 144

Prison logic can be kind of fuzzy at times.  Snitching is bad.  That’s OBVI.  But you would think that rule would be null and void if someone robs you blind.  Remember the shoe thievery that occurred in my Unit last week?  Well, I have a couple of updates.

For one, the inmates were more outraged at the victim for telling the cop about getting robbed than they were about someone having the nerve to walk into another man’s “house” and take his shit.  In prison, if you get beat up, robbed, or any other form of abuse, you’re supposed to shut up and take it like a man.  Telling a guard is the worst thing you can do — you’d be lucky to not have whatever was done to you the first time done to you again…times infinity.

Oh, and the guy who I thought was busted by being caught in the act on camera?  That wasn’t exactly the case.  Apparently, when the buzz started swarming among the Mexicans, the Whites (or more accurately, the rednecks) had a meeting in their TV room and the guy who took the sneakers fessed up that he stole them and he ended up “checking in” (lingo for turning himself in).  And while he likely would have wound up in the Hole for theft if the cops saw it was him on the tape, the real reason that he went to the Hole was for his own safety.  I think the cop’s exact words were, “We gotta git you outta here.”

The little thief would have been on the receiving end of a Mexican hat dance if he had stayed.

 

*

Currently Reading:  “Among the Thugs” by Bill Buford

*

Institution Movie:  “Thor“…much better than I expected.

*

Lunch:  Fried Fish Patty Sandwich

Dinner:  Beef Stir-Fry

Day 137

It was like a game of CLUE (“Peaches…in the Shower Room…with a Mop Handle.”)  Except, in this case, there was a theft, not a murder.  It all started, however, with the cliched trappings of a true murder mystery.  Around 9:00 p.m., the cop walked into the Unit and announces in his most authoritative voice…”Listen up!  We have a thief among us.”  Verbatim.  “There have been several pairs of shoes missing.  We are going to run the tapes in the control room.  In the meantime, if you were the one who took them, you have the option of setting them back out somewhere in the open.”

This directive was slightly ambiguous because it was without a “NO QUESTIONS ASKED” clause.  It was unclear whether or not the culprit would be let off if he returned the merchandise.

Theft, in general, has always been a problem in the Units — after all, there is no honor among thieves — but this issue becomes particularly exacerbated come football season (more on that at a later time) when gambling debts spiral out of control and inmates need to come up with a way to repay the bookies.

As the search for the missing sneakers intensified, the tension in the air was so thick, you could cut it with a knife (albeit an improvised cutter, fashioned from the lid of a tin can).  Turns out that the victim was a nice, mild-mannered Hispanic guy (from my hometown) who was well-liked and minded his own business.  The rest of the Hispanic guys in the Unit began to gather like darkening storm clouds and fingers of accusation were pointed in every which direction, like errant lightning bolts.  The thunderous rumbling of their angry Spanish sparked even more kinetic electricity.

The first and most likely suspect, and ultimately a red herring, was a gentleman recently released from the Hole for theft…who ran a hustle cleaning and selling sneakers acquired from indeterminate sources.  Hmm.  But things are not always as they seem.  Acting only on a hunch and some whispered blame, the cop tossed that guy’s cube and rummaged through his locker, turning up nothing ill-begotten.  Of course, the suspicion of this particular individual didn’t just end there, but the inmates just assumed that he had a clever hiding space for the stolen goods.

About twenty more minutes had passed, the cop’s time spent wandering the halls, casing the joint for clues.  And then came the tell-tale sign of the end of most prison mysteries.  The cop starts coming up the lane running past my cube with a red two-wheeled hand truck (momentarily reminding me of the iconic wheelbarrow of William Carlos Williams) — which is often the first omen that someone is going to the SHU…the Hole…the Bucket…the Corner Pocket.  This is the first indication because that cart means that an inmate’s locker and personal possessions are going into storage…as the inmate in question would no longer be needing his things for the foreseeable future.

And wouldn’t you know, the cop stops directly across from my own cube, to apprehend a suspect out of a neighboring cube, which consequently also neighbored the cube of the apparent theft.

You know when a serial killer is apprehended and there is always one neighbor on the evening news who purports to have had the individual in his sights?  “He always seemed kind of strange and quiet.”  That’s how I felt about the guilty party.  Dude was a young, white guy with a really poor attitude and a permanent scowl on his face.  He was a recent arrival on this compound as he was kicked out of the camp down the hill (I’m assuming for the same reason).

He didn’t have very many known associates, other than a couple of rednecks of ill-repute, and he was notorious for snorting pills purchased from other inmates who had obtained them for their own use at the controlled pill line.  Perhaps that was his motive — to score some more pills.

It’s funny — while he wasn’t the most obvious suspect, he was certainly the one that made the most sense after he was fingered.  Which should be a lesson to everyone to refrain judgment from those who stand accused of a crime with no real evidence other than a “hunch.”

(The guilty party here was seen taking the brand-new Nike running shoes from his neighbor’s cube on the security footage and stashing them behind a washing machine in the laundry room.)

*

CurrentlyReading:  “The Good Life” by Jay McInerney

*

Institution Movie:   “Something Borrowed” with Kate Hudson.  Barf.

*

Lunch:  Fish FiletSandwich, Mac & Cheese, Spinach, Salad with French Dressing

Dinner:  (Wrap-Your-Own) Beef & Bean Burrito

Day 136

One of my self-imposed rules when eating out for breakfast has always been to order the biscuits & gravy whenever it is on the menu.  I don’t care if it’s a greasy-spoon diner or a chef driven, farm-to-table joint — if they have it, I’m getting it.  As a result, I’ve experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I was intrigued upon learning that a “Country Breakfast” (biscuits & gravy, scrambled eggs, potatoes, grits, etc.) was one of the dinners served during the seasonal 5-week dinner menu rotation here.  Considering that the brunch served on Sundays is typically one of the better meals served during the week, I had high expectations.  After all, with biscuits & gravy, there are usually varying degrees of good to great, but it is a meal that is difficult to seriously screw up. Leave it to the Bureau of Prisons.

I think I’ve had this meal three times now since I’ve been here — the first of which set the gold standard.  The biscuits were hot, fresh, and recently dropped.  The gravy was peppery with a viscosity that was none to thick and none to light…and loaded to the hilt with big chunks of turkey sausage.

The second time that I’ve had this meal…there WERE no biscuits & gravy.  Only in prison, can they serve you a meal, without actually serving you the meal.  On that particular occasion, you got the eggs, potatoes, and bread, but not the main event.

Tonight, the gravy looked and smelled terrific…and the sidecars on the tray were heaped with all of the requisite accouterments…but they must have run out of flour because there were no biscuits, only whole wheat bread.  So, I tore up the bread into soft, crouton-sized chunks, stirred it all up, and dug in.  At first bite, I thought they had carved up roast beef into nice thin slices for the gravy meat…and then I realized that I was eating freakin’ bologna!! Bolognain gravy??  Yikes.  Surprisingly, it didn’t actually taste half bad, and it would have been more forgivable with some fresh biscuits, but just the concept of putting the lowest common denominator of deli meats into a savory gray is enough to swear off the meal entirely, and for the rest of eternity.

*

Lunch:  Baked Chicken, Salad with French Dressing, Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, Spinach

Dinner:  Biscuits & Gravy, Scrambled Eggs, Potatoes, Grits, Whole Wheat Bread

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 36 other followers