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Day 37

Saturday, March 11, 2000

I was still awake when breakfast came at 4:00 this morning. There had been a wirlwind of activity in our 17 X 13 foot home. I guess bordom took its toll on our fragile minds, as a couple of us beat out rhythms on whatever surface we could find, and one of my more, uh, "creatively active" roommates tore one of his t-shirts apart and rearranged it, so to speak.

He tore off one sleeve, stretching it over his head like a hat of sorts, ripping the shirt up its sides and tearing out the neck, he put his head through the opening created by the absent sleeve and tore off a long strand to tie about his waiste holding the torn remains in place. It looked rediculous, to say the least, but under the circumstances we all laughed out loud.

He began to dance about, banging on things as he went, adding to the noise of our rhythmic hammerings. Then he began to holler in all sorts of odd tones, mimicking some sort of native American tribal dance. We laughed some more.

Suddenly with a metallic "THUD!" the door came open. The guard stood there with a stern look on her face. Then she saw him. We all stopped what we were doing and watched her facial expressions change. It fluctuated from anger to fright, to amusement as she didn't know to laugh, yell, or be afraid. She simply asked him, "What the HELL is going on here?"

"I'm going back to AFRICA!", he exclaimed, with a spry in his step. We had to refrain from the laughter once again. She got on his case about tearing up his shirt, and told him to stop acting a fool. He told her, honestly enough, that it gets REALLY boring in here. She left our cell with a slam of the door.

We went to sleep after breakfast, and slept until 9:00 when a guard came in and asked who wanted to go to outside recreation in the pouring rain. Some of these guys hadn't been outside in days, yet to go today was to stand in the rain for an hour. I said I wanted to go. Edgar said he was in, too. We dressed and headed out the door.

Once outside the cell, my eyes met with an inmate from "the hole" next door. A flood of emotion rushed my system. One urge was to embrace this guy like an old friend. Another urge was to punch him dead in the face and knock him to the floor. Instead, I raised an eyebrow.

His eyes widened and a smile stretched across his face. He knew I wouldn't hit him. He knew I was unable to even harbor anger against him, even though he is directly responsible for me being in this hole instead of in work release. This was Rodney.

If you recall, I mentioned that one of the work release inmates had read a page of my journal and showed it to a guard. That brought on a chain reaction that caused me to be removed from work release and ultimately be locked in the hole for the remainder of my sentence. That inmate was Rodney.

Everyone agreed that Rodney made a STUPID decision in showing that paper to the guard, and many told me he deserved a first-rate old-fashoned ass whoopin'.

I only had one problem with that. Rodney is a good man. A midle-aged black man who runs his own iron works business. Rodney is a firm believer in the Christian faith and would never do intentional harm to any human being. Suffice to say, I like Rodney. What he did that day was make a mistake, one that severely screwed me, but a mistake none the less.

Considering what happend to me, many find it hard to believe Rodney didn't have it out for me, yet I know it to be a case of poor judgement. Some of my work release dormmates vowed to get even with him for me, either with bodily harm or harsh words. I told them not to. I explained that doing so would not restore my work release status, and could only endanger their own status. Besides, Rodney made a mistake. I pointed out that we had ALL made mistakes, otherwise none of us would be here. So it was settled. Nobody would carry vengeance toward Rodney. A couple said they had to at least make him feel bad, which I saw was fine.

So here we are, face to face after all this time. I hadn't had occasion to speak with him until this point, although I had seen him through a series of windows across the hallway between the F-pod, where I had been moved to, and the E-pod, where work release was located. Through those windows, he had mouthed his apology, with body language to drive the point across. I let him know at that point that the apology was accepted. Although I didn't know at the time how bad it was going to get, it wouldn't have mattered.

As we walked outside, Rodney told me how he had come to be in the hold. It seems the monitor had come to his work one day to see that he was there. He wasn't. The rules state that if you leave your work site at any time for any reason, you are to call the monitor to let him know. Usually, this consists of leaving him a voice mail telling him where you are going and when you will return. It is common to find that his voice mailbox is full, and therefore you're unable to leave a message. For whatever reason, Rodney had not called in this day, and they wrote him up for OUT of PLACE and sentenced him to ten days in the hole.

Some might say, "What goes around, comes around."

I introduced Rodney and Edgar, and we stood in the misty rain. I walked a few laps around the makeshift recreation area, and Edgar and I took turns shooting a partially deflated basketball at the goal. I'm a better shot then I thought.

After some time, we struck conversation with the guard. He was a middle-aged white man with a beard turning gray. He was very friendly, as I jokingly apologised for making him have to stand in the drizzle with us. He said he didn't mind. It turns out he was fun to talk to. I'll just call him "Chief".

He had at one point been the administrator of this jail, and was now back to being a guard. His weatherproof jacket made it impossible for me to see his name tag nor his rank. He spoke of how he disagreed with many of the policies of this sheriff's administration and how the Sheriff seemed to not only allow, but ATTRACT these gung-ho type rookie officers who lived for the power trip of having authority. They treated each inmate as if he were a murderer or child abuser. The guard said he used to have to explain to these types that most of these inmates were serving time for DUI or failure to pay Child Support, things some of the guards had themselves done and not been caught. This didn't have much effect on the guards when he was in charge, and it is certainly much worse now. He cited as an exampole, that he had heard most guards, when asked the time by an inmate, would respond, "Time for you to get a watch," in an immature tone of voice.

Remember in a previous entry when I said most guards were assholes? Case in point.

Don't get me wrong, some guards are nice, and should be commended on their good work of treating inmates firmly, fairly, and with respect. A few come to mind, but some I don't know their names, and those whose names I remember I'm hesitant to mention names, especially after what happened to get me in here. I will say one is tall, in his mid to late twenties, and I'll call him "Big Bobby". Although tough at times, he is always fair and inmates respect his authority much more so than those who just bitch, yell, and order us around.

Back to the recreation in the rain, Chief listened as I told him about my situation, and how this journal had caused an uproar that led to me being brought up on trumped-up charges just to keep me quiet for the remainder of my sentence. Chief amazed me by saying what I've been saying all along. He said the guards and administration of that facility were intimidated by an inmate being smart enough to do something like keep an online journal, and to an extent, it frightened them. So much so they had to stop me, and locking a prisoner in the hole ALWAYS stops them from doing whatever it is they happen to be doing.

Well, not in this case. (grin)

I've got two weeks and three days remaining. I have three pens, two notepads, and enough money in my commissary account to buy more. They can lock me up in the hole and throw away the key because I KNOW they can't stop me. I have a First Amendment right to keep this journal. and you have the right to know what goes on inside these walls, if you chose to care. After all, it's YOUR tax dollars that help fuel this money machine. Shouldn't you know where you're money's going?

Maybe being locked up in the hole, unable to communicate with my mom, wife, and children has made me bitter. Maybe it has allowed me to open my eyes to what's REALLY going on here. One thing's for sure, it's given me more time to write.

And my former bunkmate Dave was right. NOW I have something worth writing about.


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