July 28, 2013
Sunday, 8:00 p.m.
Letter #288: It’s a Hard-Knock Life
Though I never wanted to be transferred out of my original pod, once I moved across the prison to a new compound and new pod, I decided to stay. The unit manager was terrific, giving me as much time as I wanted in the multi-purpose room to teach classes. She even asked me to create a new unit schedule. Besides that, the church wanted me to work with the choir to add harmonies, and I hoped to reduce their tendency to yell as well. I’d begun regular mentoring of a guy in the pod and had begun English tutoring with another guy who is trying to pass his GED. Then, I blew it.
A guy from another pod asked if he could use my TV for a few days. I’d known him when we both lived in my previous pod, and he’d even confided in me the real reason he’s in prison. I was getting a visit over the weekend, so the request seemed reasonable. Growing up, we were taught, “If it’s a reasonable request, the answer at our house is always, ‘yes.’” Never mind that this place isn’t anything like our house, besides all the boys.
A few days later, and the guy claimed that prison staff had confiscated the TV, since we’re not supposed to loan belongings to each other. I immediately approached the staff member he’d named and apologized for loaning my personal property to another inmate. The staff member looked puzzled and said nothing was seized all weekend. The inmate stuck with his story, but guys in my pod heard from their classmates at school that the inmate had in fact stolen the TV from me.
That night, this past Monday, it seemed as if everyone in my pod wanted to go over to the guy’s pod and take back my TV with force. I had the craziest looking guys you never hope to meet telling me that because I’m a nice guy, they’ll go beat up the inmate I loaned it to. I thanked them for their—kindness?—but asked each one to please not do anything. Huge guys with swastikas on their necks, full head tattoos, handwritten names instead of eyebrows, and split tongues were insisting they’d help me. Very sweet of them, but I talked them down.
The next day, however, one of my cellie’s “homies” got aggressive with the guy who stole my TV, and the guy returned it after lunch. Everyone in my pod, it seemed, knew about it, telling me that three different gangs got involved against the guy and his friends, about 40 guys vs. 10 guys.
After all of that, my little gang-banger cellie got really hyper and aggressive in our cell, saying some fairly horrible things. So much for being friends! (Actually, the prison made a huge mistake to even put us in the same cell.) To ease tension, I told him I’d leave. So, when our door opened up next, we both left the cell and shut the door.
I went and told our pod officer that I needed to move out, but I asked him specifically if I could pack up my own property. He told me that the staff would pack everything, then escorted me out of the pod to talk with a lieutenant. Unfortunately, he was a new officer, so he then went back into my pod and did a cell unlock—including my cell. By the time officers went to pack my belongings, all of my electronics were missing and other items as well. (I’ve filed for reimbursement.)
I was escorted to the medical clinic, and the nurse who took my vitals asked how long I’ve had high blood pressure.
“Just today,” I told her. I didn’t fear for my safety, I told staff, but I just felt it was best for me not to stay around after causing so much trouble. So, I was taken back to my original unit on the other compound, in a pod across from my original one.
I feel bad for the missed opportunities this latest move has caused, but I am confident God will work through my continuing mistakes—even when I’m trying to be nice—to bring about His purposes in me.