The first week in a new location is pretty much the same for everyone – attend all day meetings on what to expect in the new facility, the rules and who is who. Counselors and civilians are paraded through according to their position so that we are given a view of not only the players but what they do as well. So I joined the other roughly 30 guys in a large room to listen and learn.
The director of each department came or sent an inmate to describe what they do there and the procedure for getting into each area. The education department came and talked about GED’s and similar work. Industrial arts came with similar information. An inmate from grievance came and talked about the life I had led at Fishkill with a few twists and turns particular to this facility. There were several others throughout the week, with morning sessions breaking for lunch and returning for more in the PM. In between presenters the inmates facilitators would give some talks, pointers and answer any questions guys might have. Rarely was their a CO or civilian in the room during this time, so some of the questions hit real topics. Of course, most of us newbies didn’t know if they were blowing smoke or not. It seemed like a pretty cool gig, one I thought might be a great change from grievance. Besides, we were told there was no opening presently there anyway which made my decision easier.
So after about the third day when the head of Transitional Services gave her talk, something awoke inside me and urged me to go talk to her about a job. I approached her during a break to tell her of my background and interest in working in the department, and of course my crime. I wanted it all out in the open up front. I had been warned that she was a no nonsense woman not to be underestimated despite her very short size. Moreover, her husband was an sergeant in a nearby facility and she was well versed in all the rules. In fact she really lit into a guy for what she deemed his “eyeballing” her, having him removed from class. I was wondering if he would come back but realized that was his problem and I had to keep my focus.
After talking with her briefly she instructed me to write all this down and send it to her via internal mail. Nothing would happen before next week anyway, so that’s what I did. I felt a bit of excitement as she had indicated they did need a couple of guys for the call out office, something I really didn’t know much about but was willing to learn. Besides, she liked that I could type 45 – 50 words a minute and knew my way around a computer. When I told her of my desire to get into the SO program as soon as I could, she said that would take some time and not to get my hopes up.
Despite the cold temperatures I enjoyed the long walks from the reception dorm up a small grade to the mess hall and our daily class. With meals and sessions each day I figured I walked over five miles well before working out in the gym or yard. I was able to check out the yard on my first Saturday. It too was over a half mile walk and had several grumpy CO’s checking us in through the gates. A pass from our dorm CO was required, so I presented mine and walked through the metal detectors and entered.
I was told this was a typical yard for corrections, with a weight pit located under the far end of an open pavilion which also housed several picnic tables and a couple of fuzzy, old televisions. There were two basketball courts, a volleyball court and a softball field, and other green areas all surrounded by a dirt path that served as a track for some willing to tempt their luck on the uneven surface. The double 15′ fences spaced 15′ apart topped with razor and barbed wire were a constant reminder of where we were. Plus there always seemed to be a couple of CO’s walking around the track path as well to keep an eye on things as well as at least one CO in the guard tower. After my first visit I figured I would be out here often, enjoying the outdoors and ability to look skyward without interruption. I knew my programming and/or work would keep me occupied during the days, but weekends – the days I hated the most because there was no real schedule save meals – would include treks outdoors to keep my mind busy and help pass the time with something that seemed “normal”.
The week finished with nothing going on much of Friday morning and nothing in the afternoon, but we were still scheduled to be there. I had met a couple of guys that were interesting to talk to, so in the afternoon I sat closer to them so we could continue to talk. I hadn’t realized someone else was sitting there in the morning session, and since there were no assigned seats I saw no problem. He did. He was big, and had a real gruff look to him and an even gruffer mouth. Partly egged on by my new friends, I said it was open seating and I wanted to be near my new pals. He started talking real tough and I wondered what I was getting myself into. I figured if I stood up he would take it as a sign I wanted to give it a go, so I remained seated and didn’t give him any eye contact. Fortunately the facilitators came to the rescue and asked him to find another seat as there were several. I hoped I had not made an enemy and done something I would later regret.
Later that evening, I reflected on it and saw what a bozo I was. I definitely didn’t call on the Holy Spirit to aide me or even initially consider any consequences. How was I being a Christian once again holding my ground, doing my own thing, using my own strength. While I was definitely taller than he was and know my way around a fight, this was prison and guys didn’t fight fair or with any consideration for anyone’s future. Besides, both parties would be awarded a trip to the box and things only sorted out weeks later. So I made another of many mental notes to pray more and use His guidance more than just in the major decisions like my work or getting on with my bid so I could get out.
Fortunately one major decision was made real when Ms Sowich, the head of Mid-State Transitional Services department, called the dorm CO and said she wanted me to start Monday morning in the call out office. Hallelujah. Some things seemed to fall into place. Thank God – which is exactly what I did.