Prisoners are persons whom most of us would rather not think about. Banished from everyday sight, they exist in a shadow world that only dimly enters our awareness. They are members of a "total institution" that controls their daily existence in a way that few of us can imagine. "[P]rison is a complex of physical arrangements and of measures, all wholly governmental, all wholly performed by agents of government, which determine the total existence of certain human beings (except perhaps in the realm of the spirit, and inevitably there as well) from sundown to sundown, sleeping, walking, speaking, silent, working, playing, viewing, eating, voiding, reading, alone, with others. . . ." It is thus easy to think of prisoners as members of a separate netherworld, driven by its own demands, ordered by its own customs, ruled by those whose claim to power rests on raw necessity. -- Justice William Brennan, dissenting in O’Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 354-55 (1987).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Week 12 Summary

This will be my last post until I get out on Thursday. At that time I will report on the discharge process and my final few days before leaving BOP custody. I will also continue to post on what it's like returning to "society".

As for prison life this week, it was notable for two events: 1) the commissary was closed due to some sort of computer conversion of the inmate account system and 2) the phones were scheduled to be down Tuesday - Thursday. Everyone was prepared for the commissary. However, a slight miscommunication created quite a bit of inmate anguish with respect to the phone system.

Ms. Lee oversees the inmate telephone system and is responsible for adding new names and phone numbers to your approved list. She is universally liked by the inmates for her kindness and quick responses. Unfortunately she apparently told a number of inmates that when the phone system came back up on Thursday that the 300 minutes monthly quota would be reset for the remainder of the month, effectively giving everyone another 300 minutes for the last 9 days. The minutes would still be charged at 23 cents/minute but most of us don't care about the cost -- we just want the extra minutes.

As a result of this, many inmates intentionally used all of their allotment before the phones went down, expecting a new allotment by Thursday. You know where this is going. There was no new allotment. Ouch.

Fortunately, I rarely act anymore on information from inmates who claim to know how something works around here, especially if the risk of being wrong is a communication blackout for 11 days. I guess there is always the mail. In any case, I still had minutes left.

As it turns out, a memo from Ms. Lee appeared on the door of the phone room, effectively admitting to providing inaccurate information. She apologized and said that she had done everything she could to add more minutes but that it required, literally, an act of Congress!

My favorite part of the memo was that it began: Dear Gentlemen. Reminded me of the intercom announcement by a female voice, clearly inexperienced at making announcements because she prefaced her request with, "Please." We all looked at ecah other and immediately mouthed, "Please?" Trust me, please and gentlemen are not words usually directed at the inmates by COs. Interesting how common courtesies of speech that are taken for granted on the outside stand out like a neon sign on the inside.

Work was fine this week. I guess I am developing a reputation as a hard worker. I was actually taken off my normal detail of weed-eatinig to assist in breaking up concrete sidewalks. They wanted me to swing the sledgehammer because no one else either could or would do it and I am actually pretty good at it. Thus I spent the last 3 days this week swinging the hammer. I'm feeling it now. But with less than a week to go, I have so much adrenaline flowing that nothing can wipe the smile from my face.

As for my departure, so far everyone has been nice and happy for me. I had read that other inmates pull back as a fellow inmate reaches his out date. I have not experienced that. While I try not to bring the subject up out of respect, it is common instead for me to be asked how much time I have left. They smile when I tell them, as if they are vicariously trying to tap into the feeling -- it gives them hope.

I met another new inmate today who read this blog before reporting. He said that he and his wife read it twice and he wanted me to know that it was a blessing and, to his wife, a source of comfort. Made my day.

Finished Harry Potter's Book 6 on Sunday. Can't wait for Book 7 on July 21.

Read Shawshank Redemption, the novella by Stephen King, in one evening ... only 104 pages. The movie is an all-time classic, actually -- and unusually -- slightly better than the book.

It's been great to see my wife this weekend, after 3 skipped weekends while she was on vacation. The prison received the clothing package she mailed, containing what I will wear to leave FPC Pensacola.

I think this week is going to fly by. Only 2 work days left, then "unit run", then ... bye-bye. The only problem is I'm having trouble sleeping now. No problem when I got here, but now that I'm on the verge of leaving ...

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bill,

You are a great communicator and writer, you should think of writing a book on your experiences. I do wonder how much of this is made to be dramatic for the viewing audience such as me, but then again I feel it must be all real since you have no vested benefit other then say how it is. On the outside we watch too much BS TV and news is not real news anymore, all we see is how Paris Hilton survived her 20 days in hell. The drama around her etc...

I am looking forward to reading your departure and house arrest episode. You did not discuss the circumstances of your plea deal and trial or your thoughts on trial, you did not discuss how you only got 3 months when the points were made to give you 10-16 months, What about the cost of defending? How did you find your lawyers? These are great details that make us curious in following your weekly episodes on this blog. I think that would be a great episode of hope and luck. I say it in such a way since each week to me is like an episode on TV.

Seriousely think about TV/documentry or a book deal...You would be very surprised how many people read this BLOG...

Anonymous said...

12 more hours! Good luck. Hope you really do continue this project in earnest! It's be really interesting to read all about your life in FPC. Hope you have a great flight back to NC.

Wendy E MacAskill said...

Bill, my name is Wendy MacAskill. iam from michigan. i have never been in your shoes b ut i admire you for telling it like it is.. maybe you should go to schools in the fall and teach these kids what happens when they get in trouble. you could teach them a valuable lesson on crime and teenage behavior and what happens to them when they get in trouble. iwish you the best of luck when you are released on the 28th thurs. be safe on ur trip home and dont fall into the trap of getting in trouble. stay out of trouble and do what is asked of you . you will be fine if you do what is asked of you til all this comes to an end and you get released from probation and your life back.. your lucky you have your wife sticking out for you for better or worse.. stay well and healthy. and congrats for a blog well done. if you wish to write me, you can do so at W_shapiro@yahoo.com or WendyMacA@msn.com. my aol mail is full, but iti s Wwendy423w@aol.com . good luck and goddspeed.. b ye sksk

eleni said...

Hello Bill,

very interesting blog, though I only read the beginning and your previous posts. I don t know, what your crime was, but it is interesting to read a such well written insider view of everyday life in prison.

I will definitely visit your blog again, I added you in my rss feeds.

congratulations from germany