Thursday, September 15, 2005
What I've Learned in Prison
Okay, now, let's be clear right up front: I did NOT learn all of this stuff by trial-and-error. Some of it I was just able to figure out by thinking it through.

-- Don't wear loud shoes.
Everyone, and I do mean everyone, else in the prison wears rubber-soled sneakers - the staff get shoelaces and the inmates don't. (Sometimes I wonder if that's the only real difference between us and them.) So if you wear hard-soled shoes, it's the audial equivalent of being accompanied by a town crier: "Here she comes! Here she comes! Everyone pause your conversations and watch her walk by!" Unnerving.

-- Don't wear a skirt, of any length.
The stairs are metal, sort of a mesh pattern. No reason to be making friends simply by going a flight ahead of someone.

-- Carry your own water bottle.
There aren't helpful water fountains or soda machines in every hallway, for some reason. And while there is a sink in every cell, the idea of taking a sip just doesn't appeal. I can't think why.

-- When entering the Secure Housing Unit (read: highest security, 23-hour lockdown), don't look around when entering the cell tiers.
To enter the hallways where the cells are, you have to sort of weave around a double-door set-up. Right next to these doors is the only shower per tier, which, during morning mental health rounds, is very often occupied by something large and naked and soapy. Just be grateful for the use of soap and keep on moving.

-- Bring out yer sarcasm.
The culture is a very fine mix of support among staff via sarcasm and cynicism, mixed with a twinge of paranoia and a dash of humanity. Shaken, not stirred.

-- Remember that the truth lies somewhere outside of the prison walls.
It's not true that there are no guilty men in prison, a la "The Shawshank Redemption." But it is true that their stories are never quite what you'd expect, and every single one of those stories is sad in some way.