Thursday, December 6 –
(continued from Day 1)
But it went on and on for hours and I was very grateful in the morning that it was quiet. At 6:00 while it was still dark, they brought breakfast. I ate a little of the sweet cereal and the two boiled eggs (which tasted terrible). Then I fell back to sleep until they came for me at 9:30, cuffed me again and took me back down to the basement where they (like the day before), made me strip naked to check my mouth, underarms, under my scrotum, feet, and squat while I coughed. They took my orange clothes, specifically for “the shoe” and gave me khakis. The guards down there were okay who took my x-ray and fingerprints, and then they gave me a lunch while I waited to talk to the man that gave me the lanyard for my ID (which must be worn at all times outside my unit).
I was assigned a unit in HA. I don’t remember who it was that told me I was lucky to get that unit, but two of the reasons they mentioned was that it was the only air-conditioned unit, and they actually have rooms with doors. I was taken to the laundry where they fitted me with clothes that were way too big - even the 9 ½ white Timberline boots. I got a coat, hat, 5 t-shirts, three outer short sleeve button up shirts, 3 pants, 5 pairs of underwear, and 5 pairs of socks. When I got there (to the room), I found out why. It was actually pretty nice and even clean, I opened the door to my room, at the top of the stairs, and there was a man sleeping in the bottom. He immediately jumped up and I introduced myself as his new roommate. He seemed very nice and kept saying how grateful he was he got me as a bunkmate rather than someone else.
His name is James, (they call him “Country”) – a 49-year-old black man and as nice as can be. He started to explain a lot of the rules and procedures. He told me the commissary was only open a little while longer, and that you can only move someplace outside of the unit five minutes before the hour. I painstakingly filled out the form making sure I didn’t go over the $124 in cash they took from me at the gate. Before I left, he pulled out a Daily Bread and gave it to me, then a Bible and said I was welcome to read it. I was thrilled. I asked if he was a Christian, he said yes. He actually had about 4 Bibles of different translations.
I took my list to the commissary. You fold up your paper and stick it in a slot, then wait till they call your name. When they called me, they needed to know how to pronounce my name. You have to provide your thumb for a scanner, hand them your ID, and your merchandise spits out. But they just handed me a clean form and a receipt for $0 and told me to come back when I had money in my account. It was then I remembered I had left my receipt for the cash I brought in with me in the pants I turned in at the laundry. I was devastated because the commissary won’t be open again until Wednesday. I stopped on the way back at the chapel, which was closed. James, my cellmate, took me on a tour of the unit and told me where everything is. There are 54 rooms (cells) each holding 2 inmates.
Frankly, the unit reminds me more of a student dorm than a prison. It’s taken a while to learn the “ropes.” James (AKA “Country”) introduced me to the “white” guy next door, who told me right away he became a Christian in March before he came to prison in August. He then said I should go meet Chris, who was standing at the rail on the other side, and told me he was a Christian, too. Scott, the guy in the next room (younger - late 30s probably), pulled out his Bible that his uncle sent him and said, "you’re probably a devout Christian". I said "yes", and he said, "well I’m sure I can learn a lot from you."
Scott then asked me about the Commissary, and I told him I couldn’t get anything yet. He gave me a cup, 2 ramen noodles, two packs of oatmeal, and lent me his radio. James went and got me a bowl, fork, and coffee cup. I then went and introduced myself to Chris, who pulled out a big bag and gave me deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, and a soap case and toothbrush holder. I was thrilled. He said I could return them when I got money in my account but not necessarily. I was thrilled. Chris told me this is the way “they” tithe, by the stuff they give away to people just coming in. So I was all set. I then went down to ask the guard about my money and he told me “it’d take at least a week.” I was also told that I won’t get my password and pin to use the phone for a day or two. That was very, very frustrating.
My first experience going to “chow” at 4:00 was weird. No one at the table spoke to each other. Scott had already filled me in that the cafeteria is totally segregated. The blacks sit together, the sex offenders (most detested) sit together, “gays” sit together, and the straight, white non-sex offenders sit together. I came back from supper and decided to go find a book to read, although I was pretty tired. Scott later in the evening shared Romans 5 with me saying it had been an encouragement to him.
A man (We will call him "D") struck up a conversation with me in the unit “library”. He told me he was a sex offender who’d been done for 17 years and has a 20 ½ year sentence. He’d been addicted to porn and one of the women was underage, and that’s how come he was arrested. He was pitiful, saying he can’t forgive himself for destroying the lives of his family and his marriage. He had been very active in the church. I asked if he had taken it to God, how He could forgive if he truly confessed and accepted Christ as Lord of his life. He said he had done that but he still can’t forgive himself. He no longer looks at porn. He told me he’d like to talk to me some more (I probably talked to him for an hour), and I said I’d be happy to, and if I could help him just to let me know. About half of the population here are sex offenders. I went back to my cell and read till about 10:00 when I tried to go to sleep after developing a vicious headache, which lasted till the next morning.