I have asked a number of clients to document one full day of their life in federal prison. I shared Leigh’s blog and Holli’s blog last week. In the pipeline I have David Applegate and Ken Flaska. Today’s guest blog comes from my friend and client, Charles Jones. To learn more about Charles simply follow his blog at www.re-calibrating.com. In fact, I suggest you subscribe to his blog to get notified of his postings. Justin Paperny
“My name is Charlie Jones, and I’m in my 10th month of a 72 sentence for wire fraud at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp. I write about my experiences on etikallc.com, re-calibrating.com, and now WhiteCollarAdvice.com. I hired Justin as my prison consultant shortly before I surrendered to prison. One of his suggestions included documenting my experience through federal prison. Writing has helped me make progress as I make my way closer to home. As it stands now, with good time credit, I’ll be eligible for home confinement in May, 2020.
Today, June 2, 2016, began like any other day at 6:00 am. In many respects the environment here resembles the movie “Groundhog Day” where the character played by Bill Murray relives the same day over and over and over again. However this morning at 6:30 am, I am scheduled for a “routine” blood test. This event caused me to wonder if I might be an unfortunate human lab rat in a Bureau of Prison’s science experiment that after my death from “natural” causes will be featured on a future airing of “60 Minutes”.
The blood test doesn’t go well as the lab technician can not hit my “floating” veins after a few tries on each arm. I’ve donated blood many times and never been told I had “floating” veins. We’re supposed to try again on another day, hopefully with a different lab technician. Could this floating vein syndrone be a result of the science experiment? I can’t help but wonder.
My prison job is in the Maintenance area that’s responsible for landscaping. Some consider this merely lawn mowing, tree trimming and weed whacking, but we refer to it as campus beautification. On a good month, I’ll make $19. It’s been raining here almost every day for the last 2 weeks, so I’ve worked about 3 out of the last 10 work days. When we don’t work because of weather, the corrections officer in charge of our area doesn’t pay us. He could, but he doesn’t. This frugality is not because of he’s a budgetary genius, which he is clearly not. Labor costs are equivalent to a rounding error in the prison maintenance budget. He simply does this because he can.
He’s a typical long term Bureau of Prisons employee. They are generally high school educated or have a GED, maybe some military, but have always worked for the government. They’re not bad people, for the most part, but generally not the best and brightest either and are naturally suspicious of anyone who is highly educated. Collectively it’s a unionized “we can’t think outside the box we have to check to make someone think that we have done what we believe they want us to do” system that perpetuates a BoP culture that’s stagnant, wasteful and lacks anything remotely resembling creativity.
Since it’s raining again today and I’m not working, I spend my morning in the law library pretending to do legal work while writing 5 letters to friends. I have wonderfully supportive friends who write me consistently about what’s going on in their lives. One of my fears of being incarcerated was that my friend’s lives would go on while I was stuck here in a time warp. Their consistent letters have made me realize that this will not happen. One of the benefits of a federal prison sentence is that real friends rise to the top in a self selection process. Many times they don’t know what to say, but they just show up. That’s what real friends do; and in that respect, I’m truly blessed.
Today is “chicken day” for our 11:00 am lunch, which means we get a fried chicken quarter, 3 ounces of mashed potatoes, 3 ounces of carrots, and salad. That’s our best meal. Food is a big deal here because there is never enough of it. Portions are small, so many inmates cook in the evening using makeshift devices in the bathroom sinks or in mob buckets with food stolen from the kitchen or food warehouse or purchased in the commissary. Yeah, it’s pretty gross. In 9 months, I’ve lost 20 pounds and I came here at my ideal weight. I’m not sure I’ll gain back that weight, but I’m trying.
On Thursdays at noon, I typically attend a meditation service lead by a Buddhist volunteer from Austin, but we didn’t meet today. While I’m a Christian, I’ve found these Buddhist services to be the most Christian worship experiences at the camp. Weird, but true.
By afternoon it stopped raining long enough to work out. Thursday, along with Tuesday and Saturday, is reserved for abs and an interval run/walk workout. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday I do push ups, dips, chin ups and pulls ups. We don’t have weights at this camp. I’ve consistently worked out almost every day during my incarceration. I also walk every day and try to meditate while I walk in an attempt to incorporate some of the practices I’ve learned at the Buddhist service.
The remainder of the afternoon is spent back in the law library reading and writing. I’m an active blogger and enjoy reading all types of books and magazines. While there, the fire alarm goes off for the 4th time today. This happens at least every other day, so nobody pays any attention to it. Last Saturday it went off at 4:30 am and thereafter every few minutes until 7:00 am. That certainly got everyone’s attention, but no one got out of bed.
Dinner is immediately after the 4:00 pm inmate count. That’s the last serving of the day, but still a little early for me. Tonight we have 2 pancakes, 3 ounces of fried potatoes, 3 ounces of peanut butter, and a half a cup of pears. After dinner, I go walking again and listen to the news on my pocket radio, then head to the Education Building which is usually open by late afternoon.
I’ve signed up for a few education classes while here, but they were all “Ghost Classes”. Those are classes that are scheduled by the corrections officer in charge of education knowing that they will never meet. He can check off a box that he did his job. So far I’ve “taken” and “passed” Yoga, which never met; Spanish which never met, but I finished by self study, and Windows/MS Office which never met, but I should finish tomorrow by self study. Thankfully the inmate who works in the Education Building is very helpful and has made sure I have the logins to self study and actually helped tutor me with Spanish. Education simply doesn’t happen here, unless I am willing to swim upstream against a strong current of apathy. The Education Building closes promptly each night no later than 8:30 pm because the ONLY important aspect of education here is making sure the building is closed as much as possible.
I’m usually there until it closes, but tonight one of my friends is very sick with intense abdominal pain and vomiting. One of the nurses is here dispensing medication, so I asked if my friend could come in. The nurse said NO, so I found an inmate who is a doctor. It could be kidneys, gall bladder, intestinal, or something else. There’s no way to know without an ultrasound. We’re going to make sure my friend gets to Sick Call in the morning at 6:30 am. He may have to fall out on the floor to get help. Usually the medical staff here will at least move an inmate if that happens in a walkway. Once they actually touch him, the hope is that he will seem more like a patient and less like a nuisance. The medical department here is dangerously understaffed. Don’t get sick here. For my friend, it’s going to be a long night.
At 8:00 pm, I’m back in the law library for the rest of the evening, where it will be easier to check on my friend. He’s one of the “Law Library Brain Trust” who is usually here nightly to read and pontificate about the state of the world, college sports, or why Donald Trump has orange hair. Most of the questions have no answers, but we still have a lot of time to figure them out. My best friends here are usually in those discussions.
At 9:30 pm I check on my friend again. He’s still alive, no worse, maybe a little better, so I give him the bad and good news. The bad news is that he is still really sick. The good news is that I can chronicle his slow and painful demise in my blog. He seems to be amused, so maybe he’s going to make it.”
At 10:00 pm we have another inmate count and lights out. However the unit is a little rowdy as it’s the opening game of the NBA finals. Things should settle down soon, and it will be time for another Groundhog Day. Tonight, I’ll set my clock for 2:00 am for nurse duty.”
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