CURRENT STATUS

If you have any questions for Andy about the prison system, what it is like, what goes on there, or anything, please leave the question in a blog comment and Andy would be happy to answer it. It keeps him occupied and allow us to learn about the system.

Also, for his friends, he would LOVE to get pictures of anything, so if you have his address, please send them to him, or if you would like to email them to the blog editor, you can do that and he will print out the pics and mail them to him.

He is now attending the class he must take before his release, and he will mention the journal entry memo they discussed that day in class.

Even if you don't know Andy, feel free to comment on his blog entries, which he gets and will respond to.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

THE DORMS, MEALS, COMMISSARY AND THE INTAKE PROCESS

The chow hall is probably 150 yards from my dorm and everyone in my dorm walks to meals at the same time.  If we do not want to eat, we can stay in our dorm.  Breakfast is at about 4am and I have only gone twice.  Once we had eggs and grits and a biscuit and the other time we had a coffee cake with syrup and some pears.  One day the staff decided to not serve breakfast in the dining hall, so on that morning food was brought to us in our dorm.  We were each delivered a burrito and a cheese sandwich in a paper bag at 4 am. Eating that burrito did not carry the same satisfaction that eating a Taco Cabana burrito at 4 am in the morning carries!   

We have been served boiled broccoli at each lunch and dinner.  I happen to really like broccoli under normal circumstances, but this broccoli is pretty bad.  Sometimes it is not even edible.  I have forced myself to eat it, except for a couple of times, just to get the nutrition from it.  The portions of food we receive are probably a little bit more that what we were served in the lunchroom at elementary school.  From the time that we sit down at tables to eat our food until the time that we get up to leave is about 5 minutes.  

There is a pitcher of tea and a pitcher of ice water that is divided by the 4 people who sit at each lunch table. Since I don’t like tea, I just try to drink a lot of water.  Lunch is served around 11:30 am and dinner is served around 5:30 pm.  I’m not sure how to summarize the food and eating experience here.  It’s not awful, but it’s not comfortable. The food isn’t great, but I don’t feel like I’m starving.  I think the food portion of my prison experience will simply be something that I mindlessly get through. It doesn’t bother me either, so I will just go with the flow, but still have my dreams about steaks, fajitas, queso, and oysters.

The dorms here at my unit consist of 26 bunk beds.  There are 6 tables with 4 seats each.  There are 8 benches in front of two 27" televisions.  The televisions are on from about 8:30 am to10:30 pm and have basic cable.  The guards have the remote controls and will change the channel once per hour according to a majority rule vote.  Each television is on a different station and one is reserved for sports.  The other is for everything else.  It stays pretty loud in here so the guards can put the closed captioned wording at the bottom of the screen if we ask for it.   In the shower area (which is here in the dorm), there are 4 showers, 8 sinks, 4 urinals, and 4 toilets. 
There is absolutely zero privacy anywhere in the dorm, but it is no worse than a high school locker room.  I can see how this could drive some people crazy, but it’s not that big of a deal to me.  A lot of the guys in here pass the time playing dominos.  A few guys play chess.  Playing cards is not allowed. (I think the reason for no cards is to deter gambling.) I’m not a big domino fan, but I will buy some dominos at the next commissary date in order to play Forty Two.  For those of you who don’t know, Forty Two is pretty much like the game of Spades. However, it is played with dominos, not cards.  I’d like to learn how to play chess, but I feel like there is too much other stuff to concentrate on first. (I know that sounds strange. I guess if I am in here for a significantly longer time than I expect, I may read a chess book or two.)
Today is the sixth day I have been at this facility.  I am still going through the “Intake Process”. From what I understand, this process will take another week.  I have attended several orientation courses, had a TB test, seen a dentist, taken a basic intelligence class (OMG, I hope I passed!)  I think I will also receive a medical physical and a sociology screening.  The physical is for obvious reasons, I think.  The sociology screening will help determine my threat level and therefore will determine my housing placement and job assignment while I’m here in prison.  I will be sent to live with others that are equally as threatening or non-threatening as me. Someone who is less threatening will have a better opportunity to receive a more relaxed and less supervised job assignment.  I do not have a job yet and will not have one until after the intake process is completed and until after I have been switched from this dorm to my permanent housing.  
My estimated time in this dorm is 2-4 weeks.  There is a possibility that I will remain here at my current unit, but in a different dorm.  There is also a possibility that I will be transferred to another unit.  There is no way to know until it actually happens.  The good news is that my next transfer should be fairly uneventful.  It should take less than a day, and my commissary and all my belongings will come with me.  FYI, a unit is this entire facility where I am housed. 
There is not a phone in my current dorm. Since this is a temporary dorm, phones are not placed here.  Once I get to my permanent dorm, there will be a phone.  I can make 240 minutes of calls per calendar month at the rate of  26 cents per minute for collect calls and 23 cents per minute for prepaid calling card calls.  I can only call pre-registered land line phones.  The only lines that I have pre-registered are my mom and dad. Unfortunately there is no texting included in my 240 minutes.  I was able to place 10 people on my visitor list.  I must wait until March 23, 2010 until I am allowed a visitor.  I can only have non-contact visits (visits through a glass wall via telephone) until May 23, 2010.  After May 23rd I will be allowed contact visits (visits outside at a picnic table).
Let me tell you a little about commissary. Commissary is what the prison store is called. “Making commissary” is the term used for actually having enough money in your prison bank account to be able to go buy stuff from the prison store.  The group of people I am dormed with here are all in the same intake process that I am.  Along with the 200 guys that entered the same day as me there are probably a couple hundred more that are either a couple of days in front of me or a couple of days behind me.  All of these guys came from some county jail in the state. Like myself, most of the guys had money on their bank accounts while in their county jail.  
The money that we all had in county jail is transferred into our state prison bank account.  Apparently, this transfer normally takes a week to ten days to complete. Commissary at my unit occurs once every two weeks.  It takes about 3 days for every inmate here to actually do the physical act of leaving their dorm, walking to the store, and buying their goods.  As you can see, this did not give enough time to complete the money transfer from County to State. Commissary began here on Wednesday and ended on Friday.  A lot of the guys at the same point as me attempted to go buy stuff beginning Thursday (Feb. 25).  The money system here flows through our ID cards, which are similar to the ID/debit cards we used in college.  Anyway….. everyone was getting denied.  There was not a single person near my point in the intake process that was able to purchase anything.  This was a pretty dejecting thing.  Knowing that my money was in the same transfer  status, I was faced with the realization that I would have no new razor, no deodorant at all, no real toothpaste, no food to eat other than the exact meals served in the dining hall, no pen, no paper, no envelopes, and no stamps.  Even thinking about that for two weeks was stressing me out. 

By Friday(Feb.26) I had accepted this fate. I had not even walked to the store to attempt to buy anything.  At about 3 pm yesterday 
it was “last call” for commissary.  I decided to go ahead and walk down to the store with a couple of guys from my dorm.  When we got there I was the 4th person in line.  We all stood in line for about 5 minutes for the store to open.  Three people went ahead of me.  All three were denied.  I went up to the window and JACKPOT.  There was money in my account!  I pretty much couldn’t believe it.  I even asked the lady at the commissary window (we buy everything through a window) if she was certain.  Thank goodness she was!  
It turns out (and I didn’t learn this until late that night) that my mom had, unbeknownst to me, put money through to my account using jpay, an online inmate money transfer portal.  So, thank you very much, Mom, for having the foresight to track my information down on that site and put money in my account.  It literally saved me from 2 whole weeks of living miserably in here.  For my first commissary I spent  $42.00.  This is what I bought: 2 pens, 2 writing tablets, Jolly Ranchers, a dozen tortillas, a spoon, earplugs, 4 packs of tuna, a soup dish, a pack of Ramen Noodles, chopsticks, cheese crackers, 20 stamped envelopes, a long sleeve thermal shirt, toothpaste, another toothbrush, deodorant, 10 disposable razors, (yes, they sell razors in prison), 10 bars of normal sized soap, a bowl, a water bottle, and ID holder with a clip, and 12 water moccasins.  Gosh, I think that wraps up my week on a factual level.  I have been writing this all Saturday evening  (Feb. 27) while at the same time talking to guys in here.  I hope it hasn’t come off as too haphazard or scatterbrained.
Now let me give you my take on things.  First of all, prison is not a good place.  It’s amazing how many people are actually in here.  And it is also crazy how may people in here are repeat offenders.  Most of the guys in here are serving short 3-6 year sentences.  There are certainly some extremes, but for the most part, everyone in here seems to be prepared to try and uneventfully get through their time.  A lot of the talk in here is idle BS about sentence length, home towns, and parole possibilities.  It’s pretty trying to keep my mind elsewhere.   There are already guys who are curious as to why I am writing so much.  I’ve explained the blog thing to some of them.  I will probably reveal a little less info about the blog once I’m put into my permanent dorm, but I really don’t think it matters here in my temporary dorm.
I have had no experiences with any guards, and don’t see why I would through my entire stay.  The guards appear to be normal people that are working a very stressful job.  This place is basically like a huge nursery school and they are the babysitters.  There are a ton of loud mouthed inmates in here that certainly harass the guards.  I have not seen a single guard use any physical force against anyone, which is pretty amazing considering that some of the new inmates enjoy what could be called “taunting”.  It definitely seems like they are trying to see just how far they can push the guards.  I am not sure what the end game is for this “taunting”, but I’ll let you know.
Overall, I’m feeling pretty good.  Making commissary really changed my whole demeanor.  I have only exercised about one and a half times since last Sunday (Feb. 21).  We have had no outdoor recreation time. Tomorrow, I will get back to a normal routine. Last night I received two letters/emails via jpay.  One was from my mom and the other was a recent print out of the comments from the Blog.  It was great to receive them both.  I highly encourage everyone to enroll with jpay in order to email me.  If you have any questions about it, you can ask my mom or the moderator here on the blog.  If you send a jpay email I will receive it the day it is sent (excluding Saturday and Sunday).

5 comments:

  1. I'm glad that your transfer and time so far has been uneventful. You are right about the lower your level the more relaxed setting you will be in. Good luck with that. I hope your time continues to go by smoothly Once everything settles down and you get moved to your "permanent place" time will go by quicker

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sounds like you are starting to settle in. Glad you could make it to commissary. But just ONE ramen noodle bag? I mean, a bowl, chopsticks (seriously? LOL), all set up for serious noodle slurping and you buy ONE? LOL, Grab you some ice cream next time. I hear they have good flavors, but sux having to try to eat it all at once and not get brain freeze. I dont understand why some people want to intentionally harass the guards. Do they think they are in school and all the other students are gonna giggle and the teachers just gonna get frustrated and cry or give them detention. These kind of people deserve whatever the guards dish out because apparantly they havent learned a thing. morons. Just shut the mouth and do your time, THATS what a MAN does. ugh. ok, off my soapbox. Obviously, I couldnt work there. My inner child would want to want to come out. LOL. I appreciate you giving such a detailed description of your situation. It really helps us put a picture together of what its like. Man, thats a LOT of people moving in and out of there! No wonder the prisons are so crowded. Is it like that all the time? Im guessing it is. Can you get carpal tunnel from writing? Just wondering. Btw. Be sure and spend the $$ to get yourself a lock for your things, asap.

    ReplyDelete
  3. *First off I would so be on that breakfast, I don't care how early I had too wake up.( Grits and biscuits - come on now ???? )** Secondly, $42.00 for that stuff ??? Did you wander into the Whole foods commissary ???? They don't have a Dollar store in there ??? -------- I guess I will have to ask someone what a "water moccasin" is because I only know the one definition and I don't think they would be selling snakes in commissary. Eddie C.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I just sent a letter using jpay, so hopefully you'll get that tomorrow or Friday, but I forgot to include a good story or memory to make you smile or maybe even LOL, so here you go: Panty raid on George Bush...ringin' any bells??? OMG when I think back, I am amazed that we all survived....4 girls living on George Bush and leaving the door unlocked??? I guess we should be thankful it was you and Weber who "broke in" and that all you stole were panties! Do you remember how pissed we were...I think we might have actually had a "fight" about this!!! Anyway, I HOPE this made you laugh...when I think about it, it always makes me cringe and laugh at the same time!!!! more to follow...xoxo, Murphy P.S. Do not feel compelled to comment or elaborate on this topic on the blog...please put any comments/corrections in a letter! :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I hope this teaches all of you a good lesson, get off your lazy butts and go to work. Stay in school so you will have the sense on how to keep and hold down a job. And be dependant on yourself not other people to give you and hand out!

    ReplyDelete