The new normal is getting old, just as it seemed to on the outside. Program, rec, sleep, repeat. Guys getting busted for porn or other infractions with free trips to the box. Repeat. Our Structure meetings on Friday afternoons do break up the program monotony as we seem to be repeating some of the earlier learned material. We go over it again because new guys are coming in to fill the vacancies left by those exiting to the box or going home.

To that end we have a decent new guy in our four man room, a Christian who I can share with and discuss many relevant issues, a big relief. He is older than most but not quite up to me. Guess I am one of the older offenders, one who never learned how to deal with his emotions early in life to avert this train wreck.

The ISOP basketball tournament is history, with us coming in second place. I thought I played well, but there were not really many ballers on the team. When I subbed out, it became more of a disaster, with guys running around not knowing what they were doing. I know more practice would have helped, but that is water over the dam right now. At least I made a good showing and that has seemed to cement my good standing with other inmates and CO’s alike. Hey, anything that helps my stay here is beneficial.
Even the new assistant superintendent took notice, though that is probably because he is from my hometown. He is a decent guy, and when I first heard his name I didn’t put two and two together, as he was a few years behind me in school. He had many brothers and one sister who was in my grade, so I am sure he knew my name. It truly was embarrassing, and I wondered if he was talking back home about my fall from grace. Only a couple of years prior to my coming inside I played on a high school alumni team with two of his brothers and a couple of cousins, winning the MVP T-shirt in a victory over other alumni. Now, here I was playing in prison for what, ISOP glory?

The summer basketball leagues are starting soon, and I am thinking of playing on a under 40 team, as I have played with many of those guys at rec and know I can stay with them. Maybe that will help with the new/old routines, The over 40 team will be guys I have met and know, not the same Muslim team of before. I wasn’t asked and their coach has left, so I felt is was time to move on. It will be interesting playing outside with new guys.

Also of note was the little excursion I took one Saturday night from the gymnasium. I went down to play, having lifted the night before and really wanting to run and play basketball, but there were not too many guys around. (maybe they had dates?) So I ended up playing with younger guys who really did not have great skills in basketball shall we say. Well, I payed the price, catching an elbow from one as he wildly tried to block my shot. Immediately I knew something was wrong when I felt something running down my cheek.

Sure enough, he had split open my left eyelid, right above my eye, the place boxers often get cut. The regular CO’s there who had seen me dozens of time just shook their heads and were angry, mainly because they had to do paperwork. Over the next few hours I had to repeat telling how it happened at least a dozen times. Other than the gym CO’s, everyone thought I was in a fight. The regulars had seen me play so often, even in the tournament, they attested it was just “an old guy doing his thing, which he shouldn’t have been doing, getting what he deserved.” Yes they said that. Then the sergeant quizzed me, then the infirmary personnel, the CO’s who volunteered to drive me to the hospital (as the infirmary did not have qualified personnel to stitch me up properly) and the nurses at the hospital. Long story short, it took roughly five hours for me to return with seven stitches. The two CO’s who transported me and ‘guarded’ me at the hospital were discussing if they should take me back before their shift ended at 11:00 or get some overtime and wait, as if they could control it. I just stayed on a bed, waiting to get someone to examine me and hopefully get me some ice, which I had requested when I first got there but never did receive. It was just another showing of how inmates don’t rate, inside or out.

Once back at Mid-State, a new CO on the night shift, one I didn’t know, drove me back up to my dorm. He must have known I liked to play as he cautioned me, not yelling or even talking down to me, that even though I was a good player, to save it for the outside, do my bid and leave whole, as these guys are animals in here and could hurt me worse that I got. I was a little surprised at that as I truly thought my injury was an accident, but I got the sense he knew what he was talking about. Then he drove me up to the sex offender dorm, not a coveted place to live, but again no judgment on his part. Heck, he even had me ride up front in the van, something I never saw anyone do before. Usually inmates ride in back behind the wire mesh grating. Quite a change from my interaction at Fishkill when I received a little scrape during summer league play there.

I was just coming off the outdoor court after a win and headed back to the dorm when a CO in the bubble called me over. Thinking I was in some sort of trouble I went in. He greeted me with “nice game”, then asked where I received the cut on my forehead. I didn’t even know I had one. I joked I must have hit it on the rim and kind of touched his arm jokingly and he smiled. It didn’t last long as his sergeant had come up at the end of our talk and saw me touch him. Immediately the CO turned away from me and concentrated on his paperwork documenting my injury while the sergeant lit into me with the “who do you think you are” routine, threatening me with striking an officer and being out of line and many other things I don’t remember, ending with I don’t ever want to see your face in here again.
My head had immediately gone down as did my spirits from the good game. He wouldn’t let me look at him anyway and told me so. After conferring with the CO, he finally gave me a pass to go back to my dorm as movement had ended before his tirade did. As I left, I saw part of the reason he was showboating, a rookie female officer was tagging along behind him.

So when this Mid-State officer took time to consul me, it felt ‘normal’, as one older guy to another. It truly was amazing, after so much of the abuse I had witnessed between inmates or inmates and CO’s. There are actually caring people inside corrections, real ones, decent ones, and I had just met one.

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