I visited an inmate at Edgefield Federal Prison yesterday evening. It was surreal.

To live there and be controlled, one must have their individuality and humanity stripped completely from oneself. One is guided by a booklet of very serious rules and procedures that are repeated every 24 hours. Failure to comply will mean additional time added to you sentence and loss of privileges.  

We stood in line at 5PM with maybe a dozen other waiting to visit an inmate inside. The door opened in a few minutes. and we got in another line to fill out paperwork. Once completed, we got in another line to be processed. I had my picture made, and they kept my ID. I was told where to sit, and was instructed to remain seated.

They called out Mike on the intercom in cell block D3. A few moments later, a much smaller, thinner Mike, with long gray hair and beard, in green prison kakis, appeared at the door.

Boy did he look different. He had lost 35 pounds and his hair was bushy and his beard was long. He had almost a kennel smell to him. It wasn’t BO but the smell was noticeable.

I asked about the hair and his response was that it helps him to pass the time. He gets haircuts and shaves every three months. Haircuts measure time and are mental rewards.

His mind is like a walking calendar. He knows to the day all the possible scenarios until his release. Best case is 13 more months.

His days are broken down by activities like walking, meals and sleep. They add into weeks, months, and then a haircut anniversary where he can see the results in a mirror.

Mike talked a lot. He told me about an inmate just last week that was given an Egg McMuffin on a visitation in clear violation of the rules. His wife was suspended for one year and cannot visit her husband. He has been in solitary lockdown for 5 days.

Most of the inmates there are non violent drug offenders. About 85% of the population is black or Puerto Rican. About one half of the white population was drug dealers. He said you could tell the Meth dealers because they didn’t have teeth. Then there is the handful of white collar crooks like him.  

We stayed 2 hours, time passed quickly. He was lead back to the cellblock and we drove the 3 and on half hours back in the dark enjoying our freedom. 

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terri said...

When you mentioned you were visiting your friend in prison, I did not in any way imagine that he would be mixed in with drug dealers and other such criminals. I thought there were white collar prisons where things weren't quite so dismal. I'm sorry for your friend. I hope the remainder of his sentence passes without incident. Seems likely he'll be a very changed man by the time he's released.

Ken said...

Doesn't sound like any fun. It must have been bitter sweet for him with your visit! I hope you both get to enjoy a beer and an egg McMuffin in just 13 months.

I'd imagine if we could find a way to charge and prosecute more white collar crime in this country a good business would be a minimum security facility. My house would be perfect with some barb wire and and electric fence.

Unknown said...

Things you can't do in jail:

Spin a chicken.

Stroll in the park.

Cook bacon.

Spend the afternoon on a boat in the sun.

'nuff said.