Riding the Storm Out

Posted: August 17, 2010 in Uncategorized

I’m at the Jackson Correctional Institution (JCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  In addition to everything going on with PRC, a child I consider my own and my own issues, we have been having an extremely hot and humid summer.  Or so I am told.  Last summer I spent in the stale climate controlled air of the Waukesha County Jail.  No central air here at JCI I’ll tell you.  You come up with ways to cope.  You close your windows and cover them with towels or a blanket and put rolls of toilet paper on the top bar to cover up what the towels or blanket doesn’t.  If its not too humid, you can get ice and put it in your waste basket or a bowl and use your fan to cool the room.  If you are lucky enough to own a fan.  You also have to cover the exit vent so that the cool air stays in the room.  The downside to all this is those inmates who don’t practice good hygiene are really going to smell, especially to their cell mate because  the air can’t recycle.  How one cleans themselves is an individual matter in the outside world but here how your daily hygiene is everybody’s business and will quickly become the top of conversation if people think you smell or your cell is thought to be dirty.  Part of this obsession derives from the fact there are 100 plus men in a confined area and the other part is the desire to actually have a say about your environment I think.  Our cleaning products don’t contain any kind of germ killers like bleach so no matter how much we try it’s never really clean.  We don’t talk about that too often.  We do our best with what they give us.  From their perspective, things like bleach can be turned into weapons by an enterprising inmate.  I hope you appreciate your bathroom.  I’ll never take mine for granted again.

Anyway, with all the heat and humidity, we got a lot of bad weather. The media is so quick to declare weather emergencies.  The inmates hate “Heat Advisories” because people can’t go outside and do rec.  Then on day this past week, we actually had a tornado touch down about 12 miles north of here.  It occurred around supper time.  They confined us to our cells and took us one at a time to get the meal and eat it in our cell.  I’m not excited about staying in my cell in the event of a tornado but it’s all steel, brick and concrete here.  It’s going to take a heck of a tornado to hurt this place.  I lived through a tornado when I was a young child in a foster home I was in.  I was near Huntsville, AL.  Since they don’t have basements there, he tied two mattresses together and we were supposed to crawl between them in the event of a tornado.  (I don’t advise this by the way – sharp objects at high speeds will shred mattresses).  The one time I remember, part of the roof was ripped off the house followed by a ‘flash flood’.  The water was a muddy brown color but I still wanted to play in it.  My foster dad at the time was a salt of the earth type, would have none of that for obvious reasons.  Enough of my trip down memory lane.  The disruption to the route not only affects the inmates but the guards as well.  Some were clearly annoyed.  The word among inmates is they don’t like to have to spend any more time than necessary out of their air conditioned bubble.  There is probably some truth to that for some guards.  The sergeant on duty was clearly on high alert.  For us, it basically pushed laundry back an hour and a half and dayrooms opened later.  Pretty benign stuff but it gave us inmates something to complain about.

So yeah, there are storms all over the place right now, especially with me.  I wrote a short letter to my child asking her to send me an email (which you can too!)  which the sponsors of this blog will print out and send to me.  I just didn’t know enough to say anything beyond courtesies and if she wants to reach out to me, the ball is in her court.  She also has the option of using her preferred method of communication – electronic, as opposed to letters and stamps.  That’s the decision I made on how to handle that.  I know you probably think it’s a bit of a cop out but honestly I didn’t know what else to do.  Let’s hope I did the right thing. 

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