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

The Merry-Go-Round

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

My last full day (Wed 6/27) is "Unit Run," also called the Merry-Go-Round. What a bizarre day it has been!

I awoke at 4a and stared at the bottom of the mattress in the bunk above me till 5:30a, when I finally got up and had breakfast.

At 6:15a we had a fire alarm. Apparently someone pulled the switch - on purpose or accident I don't know. All inmates had to exit the dorms and walk across the street to wait for about 30 minutes.

Showered. Dressed in my greens. I didn't have to report to work today but I still have to be in official uniform.

I went to my Unit Secretary, Ms. Green, at 7:30a to begin my unit run. She gave me a sheet of paper with about a dozen departments listed (see below). I was instructed to visit each one to be "checked off" as having no outstanding issues. This took all of 45 minutes. Each stop was routine.

The only remaining items on the schedule were to see the cashier at 10a and return to R&D (Receiving and Discharge) at 1p with all possessions I was leaving with so they could be packaged.

The weather was beautiful. Life was good. I went to the law library to read an article in The American about another federal inmate's experience in a federal prison camp. I will write my comments on this article later.

I had an ice cream bar with the remaining funds on my ID/Debit card (actually I will leave with $.25 left on it). Like I said, life was good, given that I was in prison.

Then..... at 9:15a they closed the compound. Say what? Everyone still at the camp had to return to their rooms. Sigh. I stayed there for two hours and then they sent us to the visiting room on the other side of the camp to wait in the visiting room.... for another two hours (with a 30 minute break for lunch in the cafeteria). I think the staff was more annoyed than the inmates.

They finally re-opened the compound at 1:20p. Apparently, they were running some kind of staff drills but I don't know for sure.... they don't tend to tell the inmates why things happen.

I went to the cashier immediately (remember, I was supposed to be there at 10a) and then on to R&D to finalize my release. All I was leaving with was papers -- cards and letters I had received, blog entries I had written, prison documents, and some legal papers. These were already packaged in a padded Fed-Ex envelope. All my other possessions -- clothes, food, watch, radio, toiletries, etc. -- were remaining here.

The clothing package my wife had sent -- shoes, underwear, shirt, and shorts -- was opened. I was told that I could not wear shorts out of prison. Huh??? Yep, no shorts. The CO recommended I bring my sweat pants (which, having already given away, I had to get back) tomorrow to wear over the shorts. You have got to be kidding.

Of course, I can remove the sweatpants after I get in the car.... all of 20 paces from the prison door. Whatever. At this point, I was prepared to walk out naked if they insisted.

My clothes and document package were stored in a closet and I was told to return at 7:30a tomorrow morning to get ready (I am scheduled to leave at 8a). I may not sleep tonight.

I returned my Unit Run form to Ms. Green who wished me well (as did most of the staff).

And then they closed the compound again at 2:30p due to another lightning storm. As is so typical of Florida weather, an afternoon thundershower ruined a perfectly clear morning.... but it won't ruin my day.... only 16 hours to go.

Unit Run form (click for full-size image)

1 comment:

Paul Eilers said...

So that was the merry-go-round, eh?

Seems kinda silly (inefficient) to me.


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