My Daily Journal in Federal Prison

Day 35

Today was the first day of my new job.  Last Friday, I noticed the memo behind glass and lock & key, listing both the “call-outs” for Monday and any changes to inmates’ statuses.  There on the change sheet was my new job assignment less than clearly identified as “GM4 PM.”

The “PM” I understood to be the afternoon shift (12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.), ideal so that I can get shit done in the morning…but I was stumped by the “GM4.”  My eyes then turned to the list of all inmates in my unit and their respective jobs — not one shared the same assignment.

GM…General Manager for the prison softball league?  Not qualified.  And what would the 4 represent?  Per the usual fountain of misinformation (inmate population), nobody was able to shed much light on this work assignment…other than (in the spirit of the eternal optimism that is always shining within these walls) that my fate must truly suck and that I have likely inherited the worst job in the history of jobs.  At the very least, I was able to determine that the “GM” was short for General Maintenance and while that might sound truly awful, I was excited to have not been designated as a Unit Orderly.

I have no ego as it relates to any job responsibility, however, the Unit Orderlies are typically responsible for scrubbing the bathrooms…which the inmates normally regard with the least possible amount of human dignity.  Close your eyes — imagine a bookstore bathroom next door to a taqueria…or a deserted, dilapidated john within an old bus terminal…how about a port-a-potty on day four at Bonnaroo in 90 degree heat?  Not even close to what you might experience in here after the peak of optimum usage.

As I would soon learn, the creme of the General Maintenance employees (those with trade skills…not I) would be placed in such fun areas as Paintshop, Carpentry, HVAC, and Electrical.  And the rest of us numbskulls?  GENERAL Maintenance…which means, without hyperbole, that we literally clock in, sit in a big-ass room and play Scrabble, dominoes, read, chat, drink coffee, do pull-ups in the bathroom stalls, push-ups on the concrete floor, and maybe even catch a quick nap…you know, the kind of activities that typically gets one FIRED in the real world.  But here, we collect our paychecks from you, the taxpayer.  And we do this until we clock out and then we go home for the four o-clock count, mail call, and dinner in the Chow Hall.  Oh, and apparently every once in awhile we might have to mow the lawn with man-powered mowers.

I can’t yet say for sure, but I believe that we get paid somewhere between $5.00 – $30.00…a month.  While many of my brethren find this job to be the worst job in the world, I have found yet another reason to maybe start believing in God (because you know that aside from deciding who should win Oscars and NBA games…he is also concerned with my employment status in prison).  Maybe I feel mildly guilty for getting paid to live a life of leisure, but the calm quiet of the Facilities Room is a blessing for those who are trying to improve their mind by reading and writing.  The living Units are often too loud at times and the library, ironically, can be much worse with the chatter of bible study and nerds immersed in role playing games.

I believe that the “problem” in here (I guess, much like the real world) is that there are far too many people and not enough jobs…but the system must still create the illusion of employment.  I wonder if this is done to prevent the more industrious types from trying to claim unemployment from their recent jobs on the street?  I wonder if there are any laws that prevent one from doing so.  Hm….


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