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).

Monday, July 2, 2007

Last Day at Work

[This was written during my last week in prison.]

Today (Tuesday) was my final work day. I had already been tipped off that the supervisors (Paul and Joe) were going to cut me some slack. They did.

First, Joe had me wash his John Deere Gator, which took about 30 minutes. Then Paul let me drive his Gator around all morning supplying water and gas to the other inmates who were out on their details.

After lunch, Oscar (another inmate) dumped a 5-gallon bucket of ice and water on my back after suckering me outside on a false pretext. Cute. Apparently, this is one of several time-honored prison traditions.

Then the skies opened up. For about an hour, we had a pretty violent lightning and thunderstorm, which pretty much ended the day for everyone, not that I would have had to do much anyway.

Shook hands with Paul and Joe after the bus dropped us off. They are contract, not BOP, employees and I always got a long fine with them. I spend my entire prison work experience assigned to B01.... never missed a day for a "call out." Where's my perfect attendance badge?

Actually the work does make the time go by faster. And I did take price in doing a good job. Some inmates take pride (if that is the right word) in their ability to get away with not work - an act of defiance against "the system." I preferred to focus on the work itself and not worry about the larger context. I think I made the right choice. There are right and wrong (or, perhaps, effective and ineffective) ways to challenge the system. Not working is not, in my opinion, one of them.

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