GETTING A JOB

It is difficult when on my own inside corrections. To put it mildly, I don’t know what I don’t know, so I don’t know. Strange sounds, smells, people. I will probably never see anybody from in here again once I leave – if I ever do. Oh, I feel better about that now than I did though it still feels such a long way off – two years till my parole hearing and then it is up to a three panel board. I do see guys leaving for other facilities and hear of some going home. Mostly this place seems like a wait station for other places rather than a jumping off spot for home.
I try to get my head around this new normal but it is so strange. I think I can tolerate it without my meds, then I get a visit from wife, son or other family and friends and that seems normal, even though the “dance floor” as the visiting room is dubbed doesn’t seem like the greatest place for it. At least here we can go outside to a courtyard and sit at picnic tables or on the ground which also feels more “normal”.
But I find myself actually pretending to be normal, that things are okay and will be fine when I know they aren’t and never will be again. The guilt and shame still hover even though I feel the hope of Jesus. I have to be honest and say that hope is for the future – especially after I die when I’ll see my maker face to face. The right now doesn’t seem to have a great deal of hope in it.
I get up for count, go en mass to breakfast, wait in line and sit with my dorm, then return and prepare for going to my morning activity, which is work for me. We go to out at around 8:00. If you are not in vocational training program or education, everyone has a job to attend even if it is only a “porter” position – custodian of some area. Since I was educated and didn’t need school and didn’t qualify for trade school because of my college education, the counselors suggested when I arrived and was housed in the reception dorm that I apply to Transitional Services, the school, or grievance departments for a job where they might use my talents. Since I have an education degree and taught high school for seven years I immediately applied as a teacher’s aide. (By the way, I found out that less than two percent of the over 60,000 inmates in here were college educated.) I heard right back and was interviewed, but I think I scared the lady with my credentials or something as I got the distinct impression she did not want me around. Or maybe it was my crime. Whatever, I never heard from her again despite my notes to the department.
My letter to the Transitional Services department also received an immediate response. When inmates interviewed me, they really wanted me aboard but there were presently no openings. They said they made the decision not the civilian counselors so hang tight and something should open up soon as guys were being transferred all the time. That job, helping guys transition in and then out of prison sounded very interesting as well as the courses offered while doing their bids appealed to me. But alas, nothing seemed to develop. You only are in the reception dorm for about a week and need to get something going and not just stay in the pool of porters that filed daily down to take care of general clean-ups throughout the main areas – mess hall, hallways, etc. where dorm porters did not go.
My letter to grievance also received an immediate response but I put that third on my mental list not really knowing what it was all about. I knew what grievances were but not in the context of prison and how they would get resolved. The head lady repeatedly called and I finally sat with her for an interview. She wanted to hire me on the spot. When I said I was waiting to hear back from Transitional Services and the Education Departments she said they may not hire “someone like me” which I took to mean with my crime history. When she called reception a day later and asked me to at least fill in till I heard, I gladly accepted if only to get out of mopping floors for a real jerk of a CO.
During your reception stay at this facility you file every morning down for work cleaning that building. You stand in line and get your orders for your work that morning. Usually it is nothing strenuous but definitely needed to maintain such a large facility. The CO in charge after a couple of days seeing me and sending his favorite inmates to spy on me and my work called me in to ask my crime and why I was there. I was concerned when he invited a fellow CO in his makeshift office that we were going to go around like my previous “dance” with officers who didn’t like me or my crime. He asked what I was in for and said he would find out anyway and it was better that I tell him now. Having been cautioned about discussing such things previously from counselors I debated quickly what I would say. I finally told him the truth and was sent on my way. No beating, no harassment, I thought it was over.
Two days later after having been sent to grievance to work, I was hoping never to see him again. However he also was a lunch monitor and when I went through the line, he yelled out “Hey I know what you did, I know who you are” which, to put it mildly, caused me great unrest. Everyone in earshot heard which could be a dangerous thing. Did that mean another beating as before? It turned out he was buddies with the main CO of the reception dorm and joined him as he prepared breakfast there. All of us could smell the fresh bacon and eggs being prepared and glanced at the parade of men coming to devour them before they themselves went off to their post. That CO again accosted me and said he knew why I was in there and I’d better watch out. I was so glad to be transferred out to another dorm and my grievance job that same day. Thank you Jesus!
The reason I was wanted in the grievance office was because I had an education and the job required a bit of that. The previous fellow had been there two years and had done a good job at his work as well as courting a particular female CO. When caught in the back stairwell in a compromising position, he was immediately sent to the box at another facility and she was transferred to another parish, er sorry, prison. So the opening was to head up all the grievances that come in at the prison, from CO abuse to missing packages to inmate problems of all sorts. To say I learned a great deal about the system in a short amount of time would be an understatement. But more on that later.

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