438 | Skittles, Part Two

June 5, 2016
Sunday, 10:30 p.m.
Letter #438: Skittles, Part Two


Dear Family,

What an interesting week I’ve had! Let’s get back to where I left off in the middle of my Skittles escapade, right when staff members packed up all my belongings:

… Just then, a very stern-faced man with a big moustache entered our dorm. Wearing the olive green uniform of the California Department of Punishing All The Naughty People In Our State, he was the department’s sergeant on duty. At this private-corporation-run facility, a few CDCR staff are provided to help maintain law and order and to handle the really crazy stuff. I heard later that when Moustache heard that a guy was “caught attempting to smuggle Skittles back from Visitation,” he jumped at the chance to get involved. I had enough time to quickly tell my mom that it looked like I’d be taken to The Hole for up to ten days (standard punishment here) before being placed in handcuffs and escorted out of my dorm, my property in tow. Obviously, this fit the description of “Really Crazy Stuff.”

I explained to the sergeant that I had only meant to make the officer laugh by pretending to “cough out” Skittles and that I was very sorry he didn’t do so. The sergeant never smiled, and neither did I in any of our exchanges, mind you. I fully grasped the gravity of the situation. I figured that, even if this was the staff’s way of getting back at me with a little joke of their own, I needed to just play along, and they didn’t seem to be playing, so far. Moustache told me that he thought I’d put lots of drugs up inside me and topped it off with Skittles to distract the officer. Now he was going to assume I’d brought those drugs back and would be checking through every last bit of my property for it. And, he assured me, he planned to look so far inside me I’d think he was a doctor (or something vulgar to that effect). He told me that I’ll learn they “don’t play around” here.

Off we all went to Administrative Segregation, “Ad-Seg,” commonly called “The Hole.” For some, being thrown in The Hole is a badge of honor. For others, like a guy on a bunk near mine, a lifestyle: he served ten years in The Hole, something designed to break a man psychologically (that has been outlawed for longer than three years). For me, it was more of a badge of dishonor. Here I was, inside my head thinking, “These people need to seriously take a chill pill and relax” or later wondering if little McFarland, California, should maybe start with knock-knock jokes and work up from there; the really complex stuff like sight gags are obviously not within their humor palette. Yet the outside part of my head (the good-looking side) was saying all kinds of “Sorry about that’s” and “I do apologize, Sir’s.” I was conflicted between the altogether overblown ridiculousness of it all and the sobering reality that I may be about to receive my first write-up, soiling my thus-far perfect record.

Time passes slowly in complete isolation with absolutely nothing to do, but near the two-hour mark they asked me about specific items in my property and gave me a drug test. I began to regret the cost to the prison of all the resources, especially upper-management staff time that was expended to address my little “harmless prank.” My hopes of having the staff see how good-natured I was by performing the stunt were dashed. Now, instead of seeing me as someone who would never cause a problem, I was singled out for appearing to cause a problem.

Three hours in The Hole isn’t much to write home about, they say, but you know I’m gonna write home about it. Unbelievably, I was found to be drug-free, so it turns out crossing your fingers and hoping for the best actually works! (Well, either that or the fact that the drugs I’ve done were a couple tablets of aspirin decades ago.) All of my property was returned to me, I received no write-ups, and I was allowed to return to my same bunk in the exact same dorm. I was grateful, since my workout partner, Mogly, was recently taken to The Hole when a staff member lied about him and Mogly never returned to our dorm. Instead, they transferred him to the other side of the prison.

Now, where am I at a week later? They just transferred me to the other side of the prison where Mogly is (we can still work out together!), into a new dorm. I went from my favorite bunk position (if I had my choice of ANY bunk, it’d be 73) to just about the worst position, right in front of the bathroom entrance on the main walk. Zero privacy, and the bunk is MUCH narrower. I’m thanking God for whatever His purposes are in the move, since He holds all things in His hands, even when I hold things in my hands that I really shouldn’t and drop them at the wrong time.

Apparently, the staff had a meeting about me. When the headquarters of CDCR were contacted in Sacramento about filing paperwork against me, they determined that it would be impossible to do so without making the facility look ridiculous, so they chose to drop the issue (so to speak). However, that has not stopped my reputation being spread across the facility. Officers and their supervisors refer to me as “Skittles,” as in “How’re you doin’, Skittles?” These comments are usually accompanied by a smirk. I’ve had to explain the story, which understandably has become distorted in the gossip mill, dozens of times, and the phrase “Cough the Rainbow” is a prison-wide “trending topic.” Well, it would be. All we have is Anti-Social Media.

The officer I did it to? He saw me working out doing squats and called out to me from the adjacent yard that he was checking my squats to “make sure Skittles don’t come out.” Nice of him to laugh about it a week too late.

Me? I love attention, so that part isn’t tough at all. And, as long as the staff finally understands it for what it was meant to be, I’m happy. Besides, my good-natured responses to the guys who call out “Skittles!” every day, all day, gives me a chance to show my true character. Now I look forward to a flood of God’s blessings in my new dorm, but I won’t be messing with the rainbow anymore.