The Trip — Chapter 9

December 11th 2016

It’s about 8 PM on December 11, 2016. I’ve checked off the days in a make shift calendar that sits in my left chest pocket drawn on a brown paper bag. I reflect on the last week. My wife came to visit me this past Friday. I was glad to see her but I remember asking her not to.

I don’t want my wife subjected to searches by groping people or violated by dogs sniffing for drugs or anything. I am already humiliated by being here. Embarrassed wearing this uniform, being seen like this and by being subjected to searches.

I’ve been on the same unit for the entire time now. I’ve asked one particular guard why I’ve stayed here. She likes me. Not in a sexual way but because I’ve been what she refers to as a “model inmate”. I stay on my bed listening to NPR. I like to stay up on the news. I don’t bother them or other inmates. I read, write, and listen to the radio. I only stay to myself. I eat by myself, stay to myself and stay away from everyone else.

I have the distinct pleasure of now being the longest standing person on this unit. I’ve watched people come and go. I watched fellow inmates get discharged and come back. They will leave again. Some people and I have made a strange connection. I won’t even call it a ‘friendship’. I believe you should not come to jail and make friends. I have less than a quarter of an inch of ink left in my pen. There was only about 3 inches of ink in the pen when I started on Tuesday when I got this pen and notepad.

This morning, I stopped a fight. Not that it is all that important to note but had I not stopped it, we would likely all be punished. That or there may have been another shakedown. I’ve watched Lock-Up Raw. I know the prison and jail’s have multiple weapons and tools for compliance. Pain compliance. Taser- powered riot shields, Pepper ball grenades, high powered rubber bullets and more. None of these things that I ever want to meet on personal level. Nor did I want to give any reason for jail officials to believe this was necessary.

I have exchanged information with a few people. This is mostly their interest in my participation in a radio station. Maybe only 6 people or so. Mostly one person sticks out in my mind. Oscar Hernandez

Oscar approached me when I arrived and made it known that if I needed anything, he would be happy to help. I inform him that I had no money to replace whatever he provided to me. He stated “that’s not what I said. I said, if you need anything, I’ll take care of it. I’m not asking for replacement”.

That shocked me. I wasn’t asking anyone for help. It was eye-opening that someone was so open and excepting. I went to a visit on Friday with my wife. When I came back, Oscar was gone. I have been on this unit with Oscar for two weeks now. He is gone. It sucks but it is what it is I guess. Oscar was one of the nice ones. He even let me use his phone calls to spend his money to call my family when I used all of my time.

9 pm lights out

I guess it’s time for bed. Not even close to my normal Home schedule but I have no choice

Monday December 12th 2016 9:30 AM

Last night I washed a pair of white socks that Oscar let me use for my visit. Apparently the correctional officer’s frown upon any undergarments that is not white. I woke up and the socks that I had placed on the empty bed next to me, to dry, were missing.

What kind of stupid shit is this? I have been here three weeks and my stuff has never been messed with. One random night and my stuff gets stolen? I still have my black socks. I'll wash them tonight and leave them under my mattress to dry.

I was up talking to C.O Butters last night. She is the officer that likes me and wants me to stay here. We were discussing why she comes into a ton of stress and issues when her shift starts. I explained that this was because the 7 AM to 3 PM officer clearly does not care for her job anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, I clearly understand how stressful her job is. However, when she calls for an inmate, she shrieks and screams. Yet she wonders why she has so many issues with inmates.

Here is a great example: it’s now after lunch and she is screaming at an inmate. And when I say screaming, I mean it. I have my headphones on maybe 40% volume, 60 feet away from her, behind glass and I can hear every word she is yelling. She has to hate her job. This is the second maybe third day in a row we have all been awoken by her and another inmate yelling at one another at 8:30 in the morning. This contributes to the inmate violence, infractions, and other issues. This officer has also made clear, antagonizing, instigating, racial remarks and comments to inmates.

I’m listening to NPR on the radio I bought from commissary. Ironically, they are discussing Prison racism and punishment when it comes to prosecution when race is in question. They mention Rikers Island several times but also mention Attica, Singh Singh, and another Prison that is somewhere near the Hudson river. I have learned a very important thing: stay on your bed- stay out of trouble. I have not experienced a personal attack from the guards but I don’t give them a reason to either. I know it’s not as easy as it sounds. I don’t understand the people who say ‘It’s not that easy’ because it has been easy for me.

I call into the radio station to say hi to everyone and tell them I miss them. This is how I’m getting around the system and able to say hi to the people listening to the show. I miss them all so dearly.

Click here to listen to this call. Scroll to the 143 minute mark.

This isn’t the first time Ive called into the show from here. I called the first week I was here too. That was a hard call because there was so many emotions- so many feelings and the anger of the situation was still fresh.

You can listen to that call here. Scroll to the 64:40 mark to hear my call

There’s one thing I truly don’t understand. Why allow people to come to jail and maintain their intake of drugs? They have a program here called “Keep”. This is a methadone maintenance program. I want to be clear, I know if the drug users doesn’t get the drugs, they become ill, violent and lose control of their bodily functions. I believe the system needs to be built to take care of this and stop rewarding people with more drugs. I believe they should be meant to suffer as the punishment for coming to jail.

I’ve lost track of how many people have told me they have asked someone down in intake for dirty urine just so they can take drugs while in jail, sleep the day away and sell them for other drugs. How does this make sense? Why is this allowed? There are people like me who don’t do any of that, have no interest in drugs, who sit here and get punished for people smoking. There’s a guy here that takes ‘Keep’ and continues to be an issue on this unit. Yet people justify his actions by saying “he’s a meth head, he doesn’t know any better, leave him alone”

It’s almost 3 PM here. The same officer has been yelling the entire time. We are about to be forced to our beds and made to stay there for an hour and a half until the institutional count has been completed. Then, we should have a rather uneventful night as we have the preferred Ms. Butters on this unit. She’s the only one that helps people. Blankets, phone pins, clothes and more. She treat everyone equally and does not give anyone a hard time. She also doesn’t yell at everyone.

It snowed yesterday. Not a lot. Not enough to cause a major issue- just enough to dust things. Enough that I was able to watch it snow from the window here on the reception house. I watched the fluffy flakes in the distance sodium lights off to my left. I passed time this morning being angry about my missing socks and watching the snowmelt in the grass below my window. I’m still listening to NPR and they just discuss the television show “ Billy on the street”

The count is over and people rush to the phones to make their calls. This is important especially today. People spend today having family and loved ones add money to commissary.

The commissary is the ‘ Jail store’. Funds are added to peoples commissary so they may purchase all kinds of things from soups to haircuts.

There are several ways that this can be done. The most common and preferred way it’s called JPAY. This can take as little as three hours to complete and post an inmate’s account. This money can be used for phone calls as well. This protects loved ones from being made to pay for collect calls that can become expensive. Just for me to call my family can cost a lot. From $.50 to connect and five cents a minute to $.21 a minute if I pay for it. A collect call cost $3.50 to connect and $.21 a minute for the person called. I use my commissary for the things that I need, soups, soap, paper and pen. I use the rest to call my family and save them money.

Wow, not even 5 PM and they just called the names of a dozen people and walk them out to be discharged. Dinner hasn’t even arrived yet. Either they will eat downstairs or leave quickly. Either way, I’m happy for them. I’m glad to see them go. I have already seen people get discharged and managed to come back. What a bunch of idiots. How do you manage to get in trouble again not one week after leaving? I try to do the math. That means he was arrested several hours after leaving. I know that you can sit in the police station for up to 24 hours before going to central bookings. Central bookings can hold you for up to three days before you see a judge. Then, one to two days in intake here at the jail. That’s about five days. He left Friday and was back Wednesday. I don’t understand.

It’s now 5 PM and we are waiting for dinner. I’m still listening to NPR to stay up on the news. I like the stories, it’s entertaining. I’ve measured my time the best way I know how yet I still panic. I keep myself out of trouble by writing yet I’ve slowly watch this pens ink disappear.5:04 PM and 46° with overcast skies. Not that the overcast skies have much impact on LaGuardia Airport. I’ve been watching the planes take off since I got here. I to imagine where they are going and think about being there. Anywhere but here. I can’t stand this place.

There’s only one person I can tolerate here and that’s Ms. Butters. She is a correctional officer that has been looking over me. I was up all night until 11 PM talking to her last night. The lights went off at 9 PM and we just talked all night.

We talk about the 7 to 3 tour and why she is faced by a bunch of questions when she starts her shift at three. I explained that the 7–3 tour yells at everyone and doesn’t try to help people.

It’s now 7:20 PM and something strange just happened. There’s a guy on this unit that has been a bit of a nuisance. He takes ‘keep’ and is normally in a catatonic state if he doesn’t have it. When he gets it, he becomes belligerent, annoying and tends to be an asshole. I’ve had to protect him and stop many fights that he has instigated. Anyway, he came into the bathroom while I was washing my towel and he comes into the bathroom dry heaving. Come to find out he would projectile vomit all of the bathroom. This violent vomiting was because he overdosed on his ‘keep’ medication. He has apparently been hiding medication and took several at one time. This just proves my point that people should not be permitted to have drugs in jail. Detox should be a punishment when you come to jail. Not rewarded because the city doesn’t want to take care of an inmate who is withdrawing from drugs. I am withdrawing from nicotine and caffeine. You don’t see me acting like an asshole for my drugs.

They’re not going to give me dip or a nicotine patch here in jail. They certainly won’t let me smoke. They eliminated smoking in jail years ago. I just don’t understand the process at all. I’m not sure if you want to call it a lack of empathy or what you choose to call it.

It’s just about that time. Commissary tomorrow. Let’s hope there is not another shake down tomorrow morning. That would suck. Either way, I have two weeks left.

Good night weirdos

6 AM wake up call

“Commissary” The officer yells.

That turned out to be a lie and breakfast comes in. I grab my tray just to have the free sugar so that I don’t have to buy it and commissary. I hand the entire tray to someone else.

Just like normal, there is an argument over breakfast. Why do they have to argue over every meal? I truly don’t understand it. I didn’t even eat and I have to listen to the idiot argue with the guards. Maybe if you guys stop arguing with the 7 to 3 shift she won’t feel compelled to yell at everyone.

This was the quickest commissary ever. Normally takes two hours to get through ordering all your stuff, paying, waiting for people to finish and get back upstairs. This time last week, we came back from commissary and the unit was under a shakedown. I am writing this looking over my right shoulder watching the planes take off from LaGuardia airport. This is mostly how I spend my time and how I’ll be spending my time here for the last two weeks.