ON YOUR MARK

So, I go to work on Monday and tell my co-worker he can have the jacket and will have to owe me his payment. I know it will never come, but at least I feel I have kept my end of the bargain. Besides, it was given to me, so I am really not out anything and keep to the prison mantra about not selling anything that was given to you – even though I performed work for the guy who gifted it. I also give away open containers of peanut butter, chips, cereal and cookies.
Monday after my last basketball game I and several others are summoned to the building where you pack up to leave. I am told to bring all my stuff there for inspection. To my great surprise, it is a couple of inmates who do the checking of our belongings. I ask the guy doing mine about the open containers. He says he doesn’t care but some facilities deny you bringing them in, but it is purely a facility decision, no strict rules across the state. So I feel badly in a way about my food, but then again I have blessed the needy. Why don’t I feel better about it?
The process is quick and really painless, except now I have only the clothes on my back, my coat and a set of bedding and toiletries for the night. I am to report to the reception dorm for early morning departure. All of these belongings are packed in the net bag given to us when we first got initiated into the State system. It is big enough to hold the little I have left. I sure hope my baggage gets there – kind of like when you hope you do not lose your luggage on a flight.
There is nothing to read in the dorm except my Bible which is the one thing they let you carry all the time. I turn to the Psalms as I recently completed a ‘read the Bible in a year’ program, so they are fresh on my mind. It sure passes the time and keeps my anxiety about the move down. Guys are talking about the facilities where they are headed. The inmate who repacked me told me that I am going to Mid-State to which I think I am glad. From all I have heard about it, it sounds like the best place to be for the near future so I can take the Sex Offender Program offered there and get home as soon as possible. However, guys are also recounting stories of moves gone bad and things that happen on such journeys, the least of which is lost baggage. So now besides reading I am praying for safe travels for us all. I call my wife to tell her the good news and firm up plans her Thanksgiving visit, two days away. I was told Mid-State allows weekend visits and all Holidays. She is glad as it is only about a two hour drive and she will bring a much needed package of fresh fruit and vegetables as well, a true blessing especially because I am low on food and will not get a commissary buy for at least two weeks. The institutions say it takes that long for our money to catch up to us.
Tuesday morning we are up at 4:00 AM to load on the bus for departure. Of course there is the obligatory strip search – wouldn’t want any property smuggled out now would we! We are once again have our legs chained together with people we do not know and shackles on our wrists. At least this time I am a little more familiar with the drill and can anticipate. I am better at walking with someone else chained to me as well, but I still do not talk much at all. We all take our net bags and board, headed to different destinations upstate.
Now as a manufacturers representative, my business when I was outside corrections, I traveled all across New York State and know most areas at least a little. This part of what people refer to as downstate is somewhat new, as my territory of coverage did not protrude that far south and east. Little did it matter as the windows were up high on the bus and you couldn’t see much even standing. If you were lucky enough to get an isle seat you could see out the front window through the mesh screening that locks us in. I am blessed with an isle seat – I do not believe in luck – so at least I can see some of the road ahead, although I know very little of what really is to come.
We depart in the dark and head over to Downstate to pick up some more lucky fellow travelers. I get the shivers as I think we will have to unload and I would see that slap happy Sergeant again, but we are told to stay put. After a few guys get on we catch a whiff of the eggs and hash browns the guards take with them. Nothing for us of course.
We head north and wind through many back roads to another place where prisoners are exchanged this time. I am not sure where we are, but it is done quicker than the last stop. Then we head out again. I dose and dream of being on the outside, free and back to normal, whatever that will be. Then we drive around a castle like structure that guys say is the Upstate facility, not a great place to be. But then we are only there for a pit stop and to reload.
We pull in next to other big Greyhound type buses and, after what seems like an eternity, disembark, all 55 of us or so. Inside the large open room, or bull pen as it is called, already seems overflowing with green clad guys. Many of us have to use the bathroom, which for our convenience is located right there in the room. Oh, it has a half wall separating us, but when you go up two steps to use the toilet you are more visible to everyone. But, hey, this is prison and you make do.
Since it now is well after 12:30 by the clock on the wall we are all handed a bag lunch – two baloney and cheese sandwiches on white bread, a huggy (juice pack), two sugar cookies and an apple. I quickly shout trade meat for cheese and get two takers. I much prefer a cheese sandwich to cold cuts even if it is on white bread. I need the carbos as I have already lost over 25 pounds since the start of this ordeal. I trade the cookies for another apple for later, as I think it will be good when I get back on the bus.
After what seems like an hour, though the clock on the wall hasn’t changed, some guys are called out, chained two by two, to load another bus. The rest of us wait expectantly. Then another round of guys being called to go out. No mention is made as to where they are going, but some guys whisper facilities names more hopeful I feel than accurate.
Then my name is called and I file with my chain-mate out to the waiting bus. It is chilly, but with my State issue heavy coat I am all set. The line gets shorter to board, then stops as I get ready to walk up the steps after my new mate. We are returned to the bull pen where we are unchained. He goes, I stay. What kind of deal is that? They are full the guard says, no more room. I’ll get the next bus, but then it will not be today as all have left. I try to explain I am supposed to have a visit on Thanksgiving Thursday, two days from now. I know they do not run buses on Wednesdays, so the panic sets in and I feel like crying. I am told I will be spending the night here at Upstate, so get my things and follow the few other lucky guys with ‘reservations’ at this fine establishment. I feel sick and wonder if I will be able to call my wife, not knowing where I am going or where I will be staying.
I try to explain my situation to the guard escorting us but he silences me and says welcome to life inside corrections.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *