The Catalogs

Posted: April 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

I got back from the library at Jackson Correctional Institution (JCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS) and they did their standing count at 4:40 pm and then had dinner.  Mail call was at 6 pm, but I won’t have anything since I just got here.  I decided to watch TV (or try to anyway).  They have 2 TV’s; one on each end of the dayroom, with one remote that controls both.  There happened to be a basketball game on the far TV so I went down there and sat down.  There was a guy we’ll call Leroy who had possession of the remote.  He was black, mid to late 50’s with rotting teeth and was quite loud.  Picture if you can, a guy who hogs the remote and feels the need to provide constant, loud commentary on whatever show or game is on the TV and you have Leroy.  He introduced himself while he flipped through the channels, just when a play that intrigued me had occurred. I couldn’t decide if he amused or annoyed me – perhaps both.  He also seemed to be in a constant state of negotiation with whomever walked by.  Trying to swing a deal with something from his meal tray for a Ramen Noodle.  I mentioned earlier that you could order a TV for your room and this option looked real good right about now.

About then, who should happen to come by but Freddy.  Maybe he picked up on my frustration, I don’t know, but I joined him at his table.  He again made the request he did previously, but in exchange he’d not only pay me back but keep me in soups and coffee until my money came in, and he’d help me with learning some things around here. A personal rule of mine is that I don’t go into debt to anyone here, but perhaps because I was hungry and I really believed Freddy was a good guy, I agreed to what he said.  Freddy told me to wait a minute.

When he returned he had a big 3-ring binder, a bunch of papers and a calculator.  I wonder that this was all about.  This 3-ring binder contained all the catalogs that inmates could order merchandise out of for use during their time in the WPS.  It reminds me a lot of the JC Penney catalogs that used to come to people’s doors.  It had all sorts of variety.  I supposed I could try to summarize it all here, but instead I’ll let you look for yourself.  The vendors the WPS uses is Jack L. Marcus –  Access Securepak, Union Supply and Walkenhorst.  Of course, if you want to buy me something fee free…. 😉 Just Kidding!  You don’t know my real name!  I guess this is how families of inmates send items.  But, as I looked through this catalog, I couldn’t believe it, but they sold guitars and keyboards! I miss playing the keyboard.  It’s been over a year since I last played.  The one I looked at was #6060010 on Union Supply.  I came so close to getting it!  But, I’m pretty sure the quality was not what I’m used to and it was expensive.  Anyway, Freddy sat down and showed me what to order and even though my funds weren’t here yet, we got all the paperwork filled out.  He was really helpful. Much of what the vendors offered is the same but there were subtle differences that I wouldn’t have known had he not been there.  Then he showed me the  paperwork process, which consisted of the order form, calculating sales tax and then the JCI cash disbursement form, which was in triplicate!  I wish they’d let me write software to manage things like this.  Work from the WPS alone would keep me busy for years!

After we were done, Freddy told me the orders are phoned in by the Unit Manager on Wednesdays and would take 2 weeks to get here.  Ugh!  I now remember what it was like to be a kid waiting for Christmas presents that I knew I’d get ahead of time. And that’s assuming my funds get here soon.  To have my own TV and radio again!  To you, it’s not big deal to have, to me, after almost a year without, I just don’t know what Id’ do with myself!

The end of the evening came and I was pretty sure on a few things.  I’m pretty confident Freddy is someone I can trust.  I’m keeping my eyes open of course, but I’m giving him a shot.  Next, I’ll need to tolerate Leroy till my TV gets here.  I can handle that.  Finally, I’m starting to feel comfortable.  Not too much.  I don’t like it here.  But, I’m managing my environment instead of it overwhelming me.  And that, my friends, is a sign of progress.

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