I'VE BEEN SERVED

My Daily Journal in Federal Prison

Day 22

I woke up this morning anticipating a full and informative day.  On yesterday evening’s call-out sheet (for today’s schedule), my name was listed no less than three times, all under the auspices of Admission & Orientation activities.

The first of these activities was a Lab appointment at Health Services at six in the morning.  I was confused by this appointment because I recently had a full and complete battery of lab tests upon release from the SHU…but I wasn’t entirely surprised due to the miscommunication and redundancy running rampant in this joint.

Once I had actually gotten in front of the nurse, she apologized profusely (and unnecessarily) that I had to return but apparently by the time they had attempted to test the blood taken previously for cholesterol, they had deemed it too “old” and had to acquire another sample.  Nonetheless, I was in and out within a few short minutes, with a cotton ball affixed by band-aid to the inside crux of my arm.

Next on the docket was a visit to the Chapel to hear a number of institution speakers welcoming us to our new home.  I can’t say that I learned much new here that I had not already learned before and I’d say that the vast majority of the audience learned even less since many had been through the system many times over and were recent transfers from other (mostly higher-security) institutions.

Probably the single most interesting, and curious, piece of information that I had learned in that session was that, by default, everyone’s religious affiliation is designated “Protestant” and in order to attend other denomination’s religious services you had to submit a form to the Chaplain officially changing the religion with which you associated yourself.  Huh?  How bizzare…while I am largely an atheist and don’t subscribe to any particular organized religion (I was loosely raised Catholic), I am very interested in Buddhism as I see it more as a philosophy and a method for leading a peaceful and insightful life rather than believing in some sort of fairy tale.  (On another topic, I found it very interesting upon hearing a recent statistic that the SMALLEST percentage of the U.S. atheist percentage resides in the prison system.  That’s a fascinating statistic that both proponents and opponents to organized religion could argue in their favor.)  All in all, I’m all in favor for anything that harmlessly lends itself to enhancing people’s mental health and daily life, as long as they don’t force it upon me, use it to justify wars, or place it above and beyond proven science…oh yeah, and please keep it out of our government and schools.

But I digress…my point being that it would seem disingenuous to officially label myself as a Buddhist just so I could attend the weekend meditation and it would be even more preposterous to have to change my religious affiliation back to something else just to see what that religion has to offer and whether or not it could be a good fit for me.  (FYI — they do have Wiccan services here…no foolin’.)

I guess I also find it odd and somewhat insulting that our religious affiliation would automatically default to “Protestant.”  Why not just “Unknown”…”Not Available”…”Undeclared”?  By their same reasoning, what would be the default for race/ethnicity if we chose not to declare?

My final meeting in this process was the one to which I was most looking forward.  When I was first admitted to my Unit (following my release from the SHU), I was told that I would have a meeting with my Unit Team within the first 28 days on the compound.  The purpose of this meeting would be to review my file, provide me with an action plan for getting out of here, and to answer any questions that I might have.  Aside from myself, the Unit attendees would include one, if not all, of the entire team:  Counselor, Unit Manager, Case Manager, etc.  I was told in advance to start compiling a list of questions because this would be the time to get those questions answered.

I was fully prepared for this meeting but, of course, it takes two to do the Charleston.  It was disappointing to see that the only individual from the Unit Team in attendance was the Case Manager, who had quickly identified herself as the notorious Fountain of No Information.  I think I could have provided myself with more value had I been sitting across from me.  She, quite literally, did not know the answer to 90% of my questions, and these were fairly simple inquiries that were not intended to stump.

The most valuable piece of information that I had walked away with was my projected release date (including my anticipated good time credit):  February of 2016.  This figure was difficult to look at on paper.  I’m still hoping to qualify for RDAP (Residential Drug Abuse Program) which would allow for an additional year off of my sentence and six months in a halfway house.

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