December 4, 2016
Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
Letter #464: Déjà vu
This week brought a big change in my life—small by outside-of-prison standards, I admit, but big for me: I was moved across the hall from B3 dorm to B1 dorm. I know this sounds small, but it changes a lot about how I do time and whom I do time with.
Recently, the warden has been pushing to implement a new way of housing inmates by turning two of the eight dorms into something called “Academic Dorms.” Any inmate in an educational class or college program would be moved into these dorms, while current non-educational inmates housed in these dorms would be moved out. Apparently, other prisons that have piloted such a program have found it to be quite successful, so the GEO Corporation (who runs this private prison facility) has now mandated that each of its prisons begin the Academic Dorm program.
Initially, our warden made it sound like a great privilege extended to the favored few, but it now appears that most guys won’t be offered the “opportunity” to move but rather told to move. Others of us who provide key services that make the prison run (maintenance workers, painters, and clerks, for example) can opt in if we wish.
As a Music Event Coordinator, and because I am enrolling in Bakersfield College, I had a choice to make. While I really wanted to stay near my buddy, Art, until he paroles at the end of January, I know that the Academic Dorms will offer certain perks, such as computers (non-Internet enabled, of course), and white boards for group classes and studies. For the nearly six years I was housed in Arizona at the CCA Corporation’s privately run facilities there, I had nearly unlimited access to computers and copy machines, so I was able to create and copy curriculum.
Leading up to the possible move, Art and I treated each day like it would be the last of our days spent together, though we figured we’d still see each other at yard and mealtimes and church services. Already we’ve been seen as nearly inseparable here, but we really made sure we got plenty of “us” time in the dorm.
For hours, we’d sit in the cubbyhole of sorts that is Art’s bottom bunk next to my top bunk. We’d discuss the events of the day, future plans, business ideas, and lots of stuff in between. Truly Art and I are the kind of friends where “iron sharpens iron” as we motivate and encourage each other in the Lord.
Then, one day it happened. The lieutenant who handles the moves came into our dorm and called out bunk numbers of those who would be moving. My bunk was called, and I went up to the officer’s standing desk to find out what my new bunk assignment would be.
When I was moved across the prison six months ago after my attempt at humor with the Skittles during a visiting strip-out wasn’t appreciated, I was given the least desirable bunk in the dorm: a top bunk just outside the bathroom, right on the main thoroughfare. I know; I hear you: Any bunk in prison should be deemed “least desirable,” right? Well, this one is its own brand of special, testing my resolve to finish this prison term without ever uttering a single complaint about any of it.
Well, my co-workers told me they had put in special requests to make sure that as specially designated workers for the warden we would get preferential bunks of our choosing. Single bunks off of the main walkway are much more private and quiet and have obvious perks with no bunkie to constantly contend with, and these guys assured me that the warden herself had approved our bunk moves. We would all get the single, so-called “Cadillac” bunks in the Academic Dorm. I just figured that any bunk move would be an upgrade for me.
With all the hype and guarantees from my co-workers that the three of us Music Event Coordinators would be well situated in the new dorm, I started to believe it might happen, and I started to look forward to it. For nearly nine years now, I’ve lived on a bunk bed, almost exclusively the top bunk at that. I began to think about the benefits I’d enjoy on my own bunk, including a much easier study position, since the two stackable storage bins make the perfect writing desk next to the single bunks. I prop myself up with folded clothes and my blanket to lean back against and use the backs of paper tablets as my writing surface now, something that takes a toll on my lower back. Or I’ll lift my storage bin full of stuff up onto my bunk and sit cross-legged in front of it as my desk. With the hours and hours a day I spend on my bunk, getting a better bunk sounded like a great idea.
As soon as I heard the lieutenant say: “B3-37? You’re moving to B1-37,” I replied: “Oh, good! You’re letting me keep my bunk I’ve grown accustomed to!” as if I just couldn’t do without it and feelings of fondness were inexplicably drawing me toward it. I smiled, packed my stuff, and trekked it across the hallway to my new dorm.
I can already tell that the change will be good for me: the dorm will soon have dorm rules we all help create, such as extended quiet periods, which help foster an educational environment, and I should have more access to the phones because of the fact that most guys will be gone to class all day. But mostly, I’m looking forward to discovering the reason or reasons God wants me in this new dorm. I am grateful for the many opportunities He brings to make Him known, and I am yielded to Him, no matter what my circumstances. Thank you for praying for me!