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).

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Cold Front

A cold front surprised me this morning. The temperature at 8:00a was in the low 50s. I didn't ask for a coat at the laundry when I was admitted because I am here in Florida for April, May and June. Why would I need a coat? Fortunately, I was able to walk over to the laundry and they quickly ironed my nametag onto an olive drab jacket and gave it to me. Inmates run the laundry so they are always helpful and accommodating.

I am currently classified as A&O (Admission & Orientation) until I go through orientation and am assigned a work detail. I thought orientation was going to be today. Nope. Maybe next week. Who knows? I'd really like a regular job.

In the meantime, A&O inmates are required to do "busy" work around the camp. We show up at the bus staging area at 8:00a. The bus staging area is like an open air picnic shelter, with tables, chairs and TVs.

The CO shows up, calls roll and assigns us a task until 11:00a. We return. He takes roll again and we are dismissed for lunch until noon, at which time we repeat the morning ritual until 2:00p, at which point our work for the day is done.

Monday I folded shirts in the laundry. Tue, Wed and Thu, I raked leaves and picked up trash. At least that's the official version. The first day raking leaves, some of us were a little too "eager" perhaps, because the CO drove by in his golf cart and told us to slow down. We got the hint.

The fact is the CO's job is to keep us busy from 8-11 and 12-2. That's it. He knows there is not enough work to fill all that time so we work slow, look busy (sort of) and talk a lot. When we pick up trash, we're lucky to find 10 pieces of paper over several acres. The grounds are already immaculate; there is no trash to be found.

It's not any one person's fault. BOP, like many government agencies, simply has to do a lot with few resources and not a lot of options.

So we play along.

And I get an "education" talking to the other inmates.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


The golf world is centered on Charlotte with the Wachovia Championship. I did follow Tiger and MJ at the Pro-Am on Wednesday. Never saw Tiger laughing and hamming it up so much on a golf course. MJ can simply crush a golf ball.

Hang in there.