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).

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Personal Hygiene/Grooming

In one of the last posts before I reported, I indicated that I didn't know what to do about my goatee. I was quite sure I would not have access to a beard trimmer so I figured I would either end up growing a full beard for 3 months or shaving my whole face for the first time in 15 years.

Turns out I was wrong. On Monday night at the commissary, one of the items you can buy is a Norelco Beard Trimmer. Problem solved. In fact there is a full assortment of hair care products that can be purchased.

There are two inmates that function as barbers, one for ethnic hair and one for "white" hair. They operate out of one of the small recreation buildings on the camp. Officially barbers cannot charge for haircuts but it is customary to give two cans of mackerel (mackerel functions as currency in federal prisons now since cigarettes were banished in 2004). A can of mackerel costs $1.20 from the commissary. Cheapest haircut you'll ever get.

I hear they are both pretty good but I haven't met them since I had not planned on getting my hair cut while I was here. I did get my hair cut very short the day before I reported (which turns out to have been a good decision) but I am letting it grow back out while here! No one in my family seems to like it short. Note from Bill's wife: Not since he has about 4 oppositely swirling cowlicks that can't be seen when his hair is longish!!

As for other personal hygiene matters, on my floor, there are about 250 inmates. There are 3 different bathrooms containing a total of 22 sinks, 14 toilet stalls, 4 urinals and 10 shower stalls. All sinks, toilets, and urinals are porcelain. Mirrors are glass, not metal. Floors and walls are tiled.

I rarely have to wait to use anything, believe it or not., although that may have to do with my timing then anything.

Daily showers are not only allowed, they are virtually required. The inmates here will not put up with other smelly or dirty inmates. They are freakish about hygiene.

I generally shower in the morning about 30 minutes before reporting for my work detail at 7a. Most inmates shower the night before which probably explains why I usually have no wait.

In summary, I think most people would be surprised at how clean and well-groomed we inmates are.

Nonetheless, one inmate who is in prison a second time on a parole violation after serving 10 years the first time said the thing he most wanted to do when he got out of prison had nothing to do with food, drink or sex. He wanted to take a bath without having to wear rubber shower shoes!

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