Unit 21

Posted: March 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

I rarely sleep through the whole night and January 13th, 2010 was no exception.  I had just had chemotherapy and dealt with other “pressing issues” yesterday, so I was feeling weak and sore as well.  I also know the next 72 hours after chemo aren’t fun so I was already in a crappy mood and feeling sorry for myself.  Are you surprised to find out self pity exists in the Wisconsin Prison System?

There was some good news.  Today the group that came in with me to Unit 19 were supposed to be leaving for another unit and moving from “Intake” to ‘Reception’ status.  I was happy about this though I’m not sure why.  After only having a Bible to distract me since January 7th, I figured it couldn’t get any worse.  Well, as you’ll see, I “figured” wrong.

About 9 am, those of us affected were told to pack our stuff, we would be moving now.  I don’t have a lot to carry, so that was easy.  We were told to make sure we left the Bible in the room so the next inmate would have one.  I hesitated.  I actually had grown attached to this book.  I considered taking it anyway, but decided against it, more because of a fear of getting caught than consideration for the next inmate.  On our way out the sliding door of Unit 19, we were each offered a razor which I gladly accepted.  I hadn’t shaved my head in 2 weeks and it drove me crazy.  We turned left out the door.  Inmates all walk single file down the right or left side of the floor while staff walk down the middle.  The entrance to Unit 21 was an exact replica of the entrance to Unit 19.  Standing at the desk was a tall, heavyset, blonde guard who handed out cell assignments.  After getting mine, I proceeded to my cell.

This cell was almost identical to those in Unit 19 but had a few more amenities.  There were a few hooks to hang things like your towel and such, a shelf to put hygiene on, both by the sink.  The sink and the table were bigger.  There were 2 metal mirrors above the sink instead of 1 like the cells in Unit 19.  Hey, this is the Hilton with all these perks, I joked to myself.  I proceeded to make my bed and organize the few things I brought. 

I then looked around the cell for a Bible.  It would either be on the table or in the cabinet below.  Not there.  I checked under the bed.  No dice.  Nor was there anything else in the way of books.  I put out my blue rug hook to flag the swamper.  He didn’t want to be bothered, that was obvious.  I asked him to check into getting a Bible or something, anything to read.  He came back a couple of hours later and said the tall, blonde, heavyset guard was going to have second shift do it.  I said that’s fine.  I figured, it might require, extra effort, a couple phone calls, who know, knowing the way bureaucracy works, an act of the State Legislature, to get me a Bible.  I started pacing the floor, my thoughts picking up speed.  I know the way I am so I dismissed the thoughts I was having as irrational.  Was the guard and the swamper doing this on purpose?  How am I going to manage without a distraction?  As second shift came on, I again asked for a Bible or something to read saying 1st shift said you would do it.  They hadn’t heard anything about it.  I’m now convinced 1st shift never had any intention of giving me a Bible.  I’m still pacing the floor, but more rapidly now.  The best way I can describe this thought process to ‘normal’ people is its like a giant snowball going down a hill, that can’t be stopped the bigger it gets, the less predictable its path and the more varied its contents, until it finally reaches the bottom, crashing into a million pieces.  Such was the next 2 days.  Finally, after lunch, I decided to approach the guard.  The tall, blonde, heavyset guard was on break, replaced by a younger guy.  I began to tell the whole story when the guard held up his hand, walked not more than 20 feet to the closet behind him and handed me a Contemporary English Version Bible.  I thanked him and returned to my cell.  I felt relief mixed with anger.  The tall, blonde, heavyset guard simply didn’t want to make the effort, and if she didn’t have to, she wasn’t going to.  I wondered how many were like her here?  I sat on my bunk and opened the Bible, letting my anxiety go, while reading Psalm 27.

  1. Mary says:

    The attitude amazes me..ofr the guards..they should be grateful and inspired that someone actually wanted to read and was making the most of their situation. Even through numbness..you must have been a refreshing change.

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