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, May 29, 2007

King "Kon"

The week following my move to the new room, the prison bus brought in new transfers. These new additions to my room brings the total to 10. Only 2 of us are original - me and a hispanic guy who has been in prison awhile and more or less keeps to himself. The other 8 guys are new to this prison, even though some of them have been locked up over 9 years.

That means that other than my old roommate, after all of two weeks, I am the senior inmate in my room and they look to me for answers to questions. I am the King "Kon".

I can't tell you how funny I find this development. It only confirms that "in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."

It is a completely new dynamic compared to my old room. The new inmates are very chatty. There is a funny jockeying for influence. One inmate talks a lot and tries to tell everyone how the place operates but 90% of what he says is total nonsense, which the other guys are figuring out pretty quickly.

There are 3 white guys, two hispanic guys, and 5 black guys. The black guys are all transfers with experience at other prisons. The three white guys - me, a 70 yr old big Italian guy from Brooklyn who is in for 3 months (okay, so I'm not sooo special :) ), and a 36 yr old lawyer in for a year for healthcare fraud - all just got here recently and have never been anywhere else.

We all get along pretty good, even if we're a little too noisy for my first roommate's taste. As usual, my earlier concerns about the new room don't seem to have materialized.

I'm sure there is a lesson about worry in there somewhere!

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