Ian’s Blog from Jail #2

[transcribed by Mail-to-Jail.com]


Ian Freeman

A Taste of Life at the Cheshire “House of Corrections”

It only took ten days, but I finally have stamp and envelopes! For the uninitiated, the commissary or “canteen” is a system that allows prisoners to make life on the inside a little more comfortable. In the case of Cheshire county jail it is accessed by a touchscreen system mounted in the dayroom area of the cell block. The deadline for placing an order is Tuesday, and your order is delivered on Friday night. Unless you are sentenced to jail on a Monday and happen to be classified by Tuesday, (policy is that you be kept on 23-hour lockdown for observation for at least 24 hours ion entering the jail until they classify you – in case you are dangerous or suicidal, etc.) which is unlikely, you can expect to wait at least a week before you can get commissary.

Speaking of commissary, thank goodness for the Civil Disobedience Fund at CDEvolution.org! Did you know that if you are imprisoned for civil disobedience or noncooperation that CDEF will likely deposit $50 in your commissary account? That $50 is more than sufficient to buy some useful comforts. Subtracting the 100 envelopes and stamps I bought (I’m getting lots of mail thanks to Mail-to-Jail.com), which alone cost $50 ,($44 in stamps, $6 envelopes) I only spent $30 on a couple done items, some of which includes shampoo, deodorant, (which I have been looking forward to after working 8-hour days in the kitchen), toothpaste, toothbrush (the toothbrush they give you in here is AWFUL and will easily tear up your gums), vitamins, writing stuff, drinks, and snacks. I had money in my pocket when I came in, so the CDEF contribution wasn’t critical, but if I did not have money on me, it would have been a BIG help. Thanks to all who contribute to CDEF!

Turns out I have a lot less time to read than I’d expected due to the fact that I have been working in the jail kitchen every day this week. See, if you are a “sentenced offender,” as I am, are not a danger to yourself and others, you’d like to get out after ? of your sentence, and not have to sit in segregation for 23 hours a day then you get to be an indentured servant for Cheshire County! You do not have the luxury of picking the job that con include cleaning, laundry, outside maintenance, kitchen work, and off-site work like shoveling horse manure at the fairgrounds. I have been in the kitchen thus far and it is nice to have something to do and does have its perks, like being able to server your own food in whatever portions you’d like, plus the occasional treat. On the down side, it can make it difficult for visitors who discover yo are unavailable despite the fact that they showed up expecting to see you during regular visiting hours. They also refuse to give you a schedule in advance due to “security reasons.”

Believe it or not, the food here at the Keene Spiritual Retreat is pretty good. Some are better than others, but there has yet to be a “bad” meal. The carroty is good, they will customize trays for special dietary needs, and the kitchen is run by subcontracted chefs. Not all jails are created equal. This is a far cry from the horror stories of other jails like “tent city” in Maricopa County, AZ where moldy balogna and gruel are the reported norm. I’m certain I eat better here than I do in my own home.

The beds suck though – that said, you do get two blankets. I use one for warmth and was using the other for extra padding but have switched to using it rolled-up under my knees and have gotten used to just the mattress. Curiously, the brutally hard toothbrush and the mattress are both manufactured by Bob Barker. WTF? Is that the same Bob Barker of The Price Is Right fame? Either way, screw  you Bob – your products blow. Looking on the bright side though, at least I’m not sleeping on a metal or concrete slab or outdoors in Joe Arpaio’s “tent city” in the AZ desert.

Like many government agents, the jail’s “corrections officers” are good people doing things that are not always moral. However, unlike the police who have discretion as to whether or not to enforce a statute, the C.O.’s are not allowed to just let out the good people they are caging. It has always been my policy to be cooperative with them. I don’t have a beef with them and noncooperation is of no benefit. Most of them are friendly and respectful. Unless you are not, like one guy throughout the days was kicking at his door and screaming “FUCK YOU!” and “WHAT THE FUCK!!” Apparently he was upset because he was not classified quick enough to his liking and did not get is shaving cream fast enough. AS you might imagine, his protestations did not aid his cause and he was eventually taken to the segregation unit.

Prisoners that aren’t working and aren’t in segregation tend to pass the time by watching two flatscreen TVs (you have to buy a $5 Sony radio for $40 through commissary to hear the audio), playing board/card games, doing puzzles, reading, writing, eating, and sleeping. Also in the dayroom are phones (where you get jacked for serious $$$, or rather the recipient of the call does) and the visitation telescreens.

The new jail has done away with the old visitation room where the prisoner and visitor sit on opposite sides of plexiglass and talk over phones and replaced it with video conferencing. There is a major downside to this and that is one can no longer enjoy the actual full-eye-resolution view of the other person – instead the view is a low quality, likely VGA 640×480 crappy webcam image. On the upside, this technology no longer requires guards to move prisoners to a visitation room, so now visits are allowed seven-days-a-week, where it used to be (at the old jail) that prisoners with last names starting with certain letters were only visitable on certain days of the week That means it’s a lot easier for people to see their loved ones. Hours of visitation are also much better (unless you are in segregation) and run 8a-12p, 1p-3:30p, and 6p-10p. So as long as the prisoner is not on a work crew, visitors can come at a time most convenient for them. In theory, the video conference tech could be expanded to allow internet visits, but given the slow, inefficient nature of bureaucracy, don’t hold your breath for that to happen any time soon.

Whew! My head hurts from writing so much. While I don’t recommend spending time in jail (as activism outside is more effective), if you have shosen to do activism, jail is *always* a possibility. Even if you think you can avoid it by doing politics, you might be surprised by the measures of those political opponents who are desperate to keep the status quo. The jail in Cheshire County could be a LOT worse. It really is a strong reason to focus your activism (of any sort) in the Keene area. That’s why it’s part of the 130+ Reasons to Move to Keene at Move.FreeKeene.com.

More blogs to come – thanks for reading (and writing via Mail-to-Jail.com)!

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