October 29, 2017
Sunday, 2:00 p.m.
Letter #471: Unsure Moves
When to move? When to stay put? These questions are perpetually on the mind of anyone within the prison system. No matter where you are housed, you are fairly confident that there is a greener pasture someplace, somewhere. And, most likely, you’ve been there before, so you know it, firsthand.
If you aren’t being moved by surprise or against your will—to a new dorm, new compound, new prison—then, chances are, you’re hoping to be moved. A better cellie, better yard, better program? You want a move. Closer to family, not so dangerous, more job training? You want to move.
As a believer, you let the Lord lead your life and place you where He wants, right? But sometimes, you’d not mind if a pillar of cloud or pillar of fire showed up to make God’s direction to stay or move obvious. Well, I’m human, and I’ve felt it was time for a bunk move since the first day I was ever put on Bunk 37 a year and a half ago as punishment for pulling the Skittles stunt. But, I resolved to just bloom on the horrible bunk I was planted on.
Last December, when I was transferred to Dorm B-1 to begin its transition to what the warden called an Academic Dorm, I was told by the warden herself that my two co-workers and I, the three Music Event Coordinators, would get to have our pick of whichever bunks we would like. Well, they ended up right where they’d hoped to land, but I stayed on Bunk 37—the bunk in each of the dorms that is closest to the bathroom entrance.
I didn’t complain, since I still hope to leave prison without ever complaining about any of it. However, when other bunks opened up, I requested a move. Mind you, I wasn’t asking for anything fancy, not even a lower bunk, and certainly not a single bunk (or “Cadillac” as they are commonly called). No, I simply asked for an upper bunk against a wall, instead of the bunk I’ve been on, located on the main thoroughfare in the dorm.
Over the course of eighteen months on that particular bunk, I requested a move five times, and each time, my request was stamped <DENIED>. I finally decided to speak with the warden about it three months ago, and she was shocked to learn that the transfer to B-1 dorm hadn’t included a bed move as well. She made a notation and said she’d handle it. Two months later, I asked her again, and she again said she’d handle it.
Two weeks ago, I followed up that conversation with a letter to the warden, in which I asked for the bunk of one of my co-workers, since he was leaving soon. I figured she could at least grant me his prime location “Cadillac,” since I should have been on one next to him for a year.
Sure enough, days later I passed by the warden in the hallway, and she called out to me, “I got your note, and you’ll be moving on Saturday.”
I thanked her and continued on my way to retrieve a book someone had sent in for me. The lieutenant in charge saw me and immediately said, “I know, I know! I got the memo from the warden about Saturday.” She is the Bed Move Nazi, so I figured out what she meant and thanked her.
Friday came, and the warden called a special meeting with me and my two new co-workers, since the other two guys had just gone home. Besides discussing the music program, she looked at me and said, “You know you’re moving, right? Be sure you move all your stuff tomorrow!” I assured her that I would and thanked her again for intervening in the bed move process.
The next day, I spent a few hours moving my things from Bunk 37 to my new home-away-from-home, B1-64. I organized, condensed, and optimized my surroundings to fully take advantage of living on a single bunk for the first time ever in nine and a half years of prison. Everything looked great, and I got my fair share of congratulations from everyone in the dorm.
That night, at midnight, the officers verifying count approached me and said I wasn’t supposed to be on Bunk 64. I needed to return to Bunk 37. I explained to them (as I picked up my mattress) that the warden had instructed me to move. They said to wait on Bunk 37 until after count cleared, then move the rest of my belongings back to Bunk 37. I said simply, “Nope; I will not be doing that at midnight, thank you,” and ended up sleeping on my old bunk for the night.
Sunday afternoon, as I was accessing writing materials stored at my new bunk, four officers came and told me that I needed to move my belongings—all of them—immediately. One did all the talking, hearing my side and understanding that the lieutenant hadn’t updated the system. I began moving my stuff, and the officer I’d surprised with the Skittles said, “Yeah, so move your stuff NOW.” He does a very thorough job, obviously.
I just smiled and said, “Yep! Got it.”
Monday morning came, and with it the lieutenant who seemed stunned that I was still on Bunk 37. She disappeared for five minutes, and an officer told me to move to Bunk 64, which I did.
Everyone—staff, inmates, yes, even me—had a good laugh at my expense, but I didn’t mind. This isn’t my home. It’s like a long-term Airbnb, so I can be moved whenever and wherever they’d like. I recognize that ultimately, God is in control, and what matters isn’t so much where I lay my head each night but where my head and heart are at.
I thank God for His favor upon me. He guides, protects, and provides all that I need. I’m asking Him for my next bed move, out of here.