Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"A Day In The Life...(Part 1)

5:55am - It begins with the shrill, piercing sound of a whistle shattering the restless slumber in which I am partaking. Whatever small respite my dreams have granted from this reality is instantly ripped from my grasp as I scramble from my bed.

It is the first head count of the day in which we are required to stand. This is no easy task for me though. Besides the fact that I am only half awake and not yet in full control of my limbs, I am also on the top bunk in a 5'x12' cell with another grown man, surrounded by sharp steel and concrete. Not much space to maneuver. Federal law mandates that a double cell should be larger but this prison was built 100 years ago and is grandfathered out.

Increasing the danger in climbing down is the fact that there is no ladder. I have the choice of dropping down to a concrete floor. If I'm lucky I won't miss the edge of the toilet in the darkness and end up ankle deep in water...and possibly some other liquid I won't mention here.

This time I make it down without incident and position myself on the floor to wait for two officers counting to pass by the cell. It takes longer than necessary, as they stop at every other door to scream at the occupants that weren't standing fully. There is a tone in their voices that is more reminiscent of a master to a bad dog, than a man speaking to another man. But that is how we are often viewed, as animals in need of training or lethal injection.

Meanwhile, I am shivering from the cold. Our cells are drafty and damp, and there is no heat...Only steam pipes running throughout the prison. It's wintertime, and I can nearly see my breath. The summer will be worse, since there is no air conditioning. At least its easier to stay warm than cool down. Also, I just woke up, so my bladder is full and my kidneys hurt from the need to urinate. No rush counting though, I'll be fine.

Finally, they pass by and I can relieve myself. Then it's back into the bed for 30 minutes or so. Mainly, because it is so cold and I want to be back under the blankets, but also because the door is still locked and I have nothing better to do. I would wash my face and get ready for breakfast but there is no hot water in the cells either. Too cold to use my sink, so I'll wait for the doors to open.

6:45am - I can hear the tell-tale clicking of doors opening as our day officially begins. An officer is calling for "Shop-Chow" to stand-by. That is for the inmates with jobs outside the cell-block. They always eat first, so they can get to work early.

I stay in bed, listening to my cell partner get ready for breakfast. He tries to be quiet but it is hard in such a confined space. There is last call for "Shop-Chow" and he heads out the door.

The rest of us will be called for chow about 30 minutes after the shops. I decide to go eat, but rest for another 15 minutes before getting ready.

7:20am - Breakfast. Our menu for today is: 2 boiled eggs, grits, 2 biscuits, fried potatoes, milk, juice and coffee...Sounds better than it is. The eggs are overcooked. The grits are cold and slimy. The biscuits are hard and dry...No butter and jelly. The potatoes are undercooked and have black spots on them. I try to drown the food in salt and pepper but most of it still tastes like dirt. The milk is cold but it is on the verge of going sour. The juice is in a bag and is more like Kool-Aid than fruit juice. The coffee is scolding hot and smells like urine. It doesn't taste much better.

I eat everything on the tray and somehow I'm still hungry. What I take away from breakfast is not nutrition and satisfaction but instead an upset stomach and bloating.

To Be Continued...


  1. Well, there is a reason it is prison :) Well written piece, though. I like how it accurately described instances, but gave a nice perspective to how life truly is. Nothing fancy, nothing elaborate- just life in the cell block.


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