Previous: How To Get Evicted From Prison, No. 3
Karnes County Correctional Center, we have arrived. And some of us are noticing the cultural divide. Because I’ve previously benefited from the racial dynamics existing throughout the majority’s ‘Merica, it doesn’t bother me to say, “Okay, fair enough.”
It’s in the interest of maintaining some credibility that I recognize The GEO Group for their employee display: 99 percent of KCCC staff are hospitable, competent, hardworking Hispanics. The rest are obvious Affirmative Action hires.
In fact, Warden Waymon Barry is the whitest, most Hooters-lovin’ conservative you could possibly characterize — the kind of all-star you’d expect GEO to groom just to appeal to backwoods officials: “One shared plate of Popeye’s Chicken should sign, seal and deliver an unconscionably smitten Timmy Higgins the Padawan unto the dark side.”
Another example of government mandate in action is the manager of the kitchen — an attractive white lady. Same with the manager of property, the manager of supplies, and the assistant kitchen manager, too. Harper who manages transport, he’s also white. Just not as pretty as his delicate counterparts.
That right there ends the list of white folks, along with Waymon Barry’s opportunities for management.
I’m standing now in an eight-man cell, first to arrive, watching staff shuffle through the facility while I perform my inspection. There’s a large, barred window that looks into the hall, and across the way are two much larger units. The window will be used for feeding and passing, and occasionally for staff to check on our safety.
The housing module itself is less than deluxe: four two-man bunks, one six-seater table and two plastic chairs, plus one phone, a microwave, and a TV for luxury. Their humble commode is our suitable home.
An ice bucket arrives and is hung off the wall. Supporting its weight is a rusted, cylindrical contraption. If the device could sing, we would dance to the tune of “This Salty, Humid Atmosphere Is Good For Making Weapons.”
I wonder if tetanus comes with mind-altering drugs. When the others get bored, they’ll be testin’ it out.
An injunction to stave off said boredom comes in the form of checkers and chess. Accompanied by one deck of cards, the three are sitting new, stacked on the table — ready to try and entertain us for months.
Someone brings in a weird-looking contraption. While being introduced as exercise, it does its best to look like a bike.
It’s as an unlicensed medical practitioner that I make my assessment: Wholesale tetanus will be coming on quick.
The floor plan is open but for a partial divider — trying to define the bathroom by creating a stall. It only sections off a few square feet, where they figured how to cram a sink, shower and toilet.
I find it unlikely I’ll feel alone when l use them.
One-quarter of a shower curtain placed at hip-level suggestively hints at a privacy door. The toilet can flush more than once in five minutes, which to us is a bonus, but it’s rather short lived. Because the shower nozzle is so awkwardly angled, we’ll bathe sprinkled in ricochet, huddled in the corner.
Settling on a fear, I pick the water as lethal. It’s horrid. Deplorable. Worse than just stinks. No one here will be drinking the aqua. Not from the faucets. Maybe it rains.
Making things weird is a lady guarding the door. Because while our eight-man cell qualifies as a unit, it’s the smallest of all the facility offers.
She’s watching me now as I assess the accommodations. It would be kind to break the ice, put her at ease. “If you’re planning on hanging out for more than just a bit, I could probably find it in me to cook you up a couple ramen.”
She says she’s supposed to stay here to answer our questions. She’ll be leaving as soon as they sort us all out.
Though our few moments alone are enough to make love, it’s mending her broken heart that’s lengthy in risk. The last thing I need is to become a victim of passion. Like it or not, she can’t fall for me now.
But she’s standing in the corner, next to the commissary price list, and I want to take a gander at the food we’ll regret.
Wandering over, I show my disinterest — by placing her immediately a mile in the friend zone: Irving’s now serving a cold ricochet-shower. She digs the role reversal and my high moral ground.
We’re still sharing the moment when I reach Keefe’s commissary menu. Lo-and-behold, they too are aggressive: Some of their shortlisted items are marked three-times what we’re comfortable paying. Standing my ground, I let her know firmly, “I’m telling you now, you don’t have my consent.”
Nothing I’ve seen is acceptable here. When our numbers arrive, we’ll initiate change.
Without so much as a note to look forward to, I take inventory of what’s provided for free. A white, mesh laundry bag on my bunk contains an assortment of welcoming gifts: two rolls of toilet paper, one Inmate Handbook, two towels, one plastic comb, one Styrofoam cup, one pinky-sized toothbrush, and one tiny toothpaste. I’m already missing my music and clothes. “Do you know if we’re getting our property tonight?”
“What do you mean?” confused. Great.
“Our box of property that came with us on the plane. When do we get that?”
“Uhhhm. Let me check.” She relays the question and her echo comes back. “What do you mean?”
The door opens behind her, producing a youngster, eager for something.
His eyes move from me to the lady. Before he can, I call dibs.
He’s defeated fair and square. Maybe his luck will improve, or possibly he’s gay. Either way I win, there’s nothing more he can do. For the reason, my friend — them’s the rules of the game.
His attention now free to focus on our dwelling, “Dude, where the fuck are we?”
Her nervous smile was expecting less candor. It’s my job as her protector to try and explain: “Just a little culture shock.” Wink. “We don’t have shitholes like this where we come from.”
“Dude, how many people do you think die here a month?” It’s not an unreasonable question he’s asking.
It’s my place as his elder to educate the guess. “You know, that probably depends on whether or not we’re counting suicides.”
Nodding his agreement, I have his approval. “Ha! Dude, they pulled me from SICI for this.”
The Southern Idaho Correctional Center is one of the Idaho Department of Correction’s minimum security facilities. Known as the Farm, it’s inmates are free to wander the grounds as they please. Many get paid to leave its confines daily — to service the community, assigned in work crews. For their good behavior, this is privilege AND reward — and it relieves some of the financial burden incarceration places on offenders’ families.
I find it odd that he’s here as a minimal risk. But per IDOC’s contractual arrangement, The GEO Group was allowed to handpick the inmates that soon would populate the medium security, contract facility. That this is the first person I meet right off the bus is a sign that others have lost their status, as well.
My cell’s third arrives and we’re immediately friends. After a glance at my painted attire, we cool-guy nod and make the exchange: “Sweet tux. Ready to party?” — “I can’t imagine any one here is ready to not.”
He was drafted by GEO from the Idaho State Correctional Institution, where he was steadily working 8- to 10-hour days — building furniture as an employee of Correctional Industries. (His son is no longer receiving the financial support his father’s good behavior provided him from Idaho.)
Because his possession of personal-use drugs was decided to be prosecuted as trafficking, it looks like we might be friends for at least the next decade. At which time he’ll be treated with a four-month class that, when slightly altered and twice renamed, is used as a miraculous cure-all for everything. (The cost for this correction — over $200k. But mostly just to house him while he waits for his miracle.)
One-by-one, five others file in. The same routine checks are made to the cell. The same questions of property wait to be answered.
An hour into our house being full, a radio crackles, disappointing with news. “They didn’t put it on the plane. It’s still on the truck. And the truck is still at the Idaho State Correctional Center.”
“Excuse me for a minute.” Our lady by the door leaves and returns, ready to elaborate on our property. “Tim Higgins was suppose to arrange the transport. We asked him where it was and he said he thought we were taking care of it. Why he thought this, we don’t know. It’s going to be at least a few days.”
The good news is: our scrubs are delivered and we’re now in fashion. The kids call it Orange. We call it lame.
We settle enough to hurry up and wait.
Soon dinner arrives, it’s beans, juice and fish.
A point is made to tell us that the fish is for Catholics — as if our butts weren’t in trouble enough.
Speaking of which, the lady has left. And one of us is desperate to unpack his suitcase.
The rest of the night we spend balking at arrangements, considering our options and what will come next.
Before we go to bed, the call button is pushed. And when the intercom clicks to field the request, we assume that he’s joking — but you know what they say about making assumptions. “Yeah, um, is it too late to change my answer to the suicide question?”