Thursday, February 28, 2013

Home on the Range

The "range" at headingly was a strip of territory six or seven feet wide and perhaps sixty feet long. Where Cell Block 8 ended, Cell Block 7 began, separated by another set of bars. So you could talk to the guys in the next cell block and even slip lozzies back and forth, but you couldn't fight with them.

There were ten cells in our block, six of them with double-bunks and four singles. I don't know what you had to do to qualify for a private cell. My cellmate was a big man who didn't seem to appreciate having a cellmate.

In Remand, you had to return to your cell for lock-down every other hour, which wasn't so bad because you could relax in the privacy of your bunk and maybe read a book. Headingly was different. If you went back to your bunk you'd have to step on the other guys bunk to get there. You felt like you were intruding on his privacy: "Why don't you go hang out in the range?", you could feel him thinking at you. At least in Remand, they locked you both in your cell so you had no choice. Here in Headingly, having the "choice" of where you wanted to hang out was much worse than having no choice at all. Here I was "free" to wander up and down the range for sixteen hours a day.

My new friend Pierce, whom I introduced in the last entry, took an interest in my story. A new inmate is naturally the object of some curiosity, and Pierce and his friend Mohammed seemed to enjoy my story of being arrested for trespassing. I already told you how Pierce fixed me up with a pillow, so then I asked him about some of the other privileges I had enjoyed in Remand. What about the phones?

Yes, you had free phone calls, but you had to declare a set of ten phone numbers which was all you were allowed (including two laywers). The authorities would check out the phone numbers and then give you a PIN number which allowed you to call only those where were approved. You could change your list once a month. What if I needed to look up someone's phone number? Tough luck. They didn't give you a phone book.

And what about phone access? All day, every day. Except there was only one phone in the cell block, for twenty inmates, as opposed to five in Remand. You could generally get on in the daytime, but in the evening, the tough guys hogged the phones. If you needed to make a phone call in the evening, you could buy time with a "lozzy".

And what about free juice, like we had in Remand? A cloud passed over Pierce's face as he paused before answering me: "They have juice, but you can't get it unless you pay". It seems the tough guys exercised a monopoly on juice access. Since supper was coming up, Pierce offered to fix me up with a little juice from his private stash. I had saved my milk carton from the bag lunch I'd been given downstairs, and I watched as Pierce poured me out a small quantity of...syrup!

Syrup! That's how it worked! In Remand, they wheeled in a big caddy of juice, and there was plenty for everyone. I have no doubt there was just as much juice in Headingly, but it was served out in the form of syrup. So the big guys could get there first and walk away with an enormous quantity of juice in concentrated form.

The guards could have put an end to this cartel in an instant if they had only watered down the syrup before making it available to the inmates. There is no other conclusion possible than that they know what is going on, and they approve of it. "Prison isn't supposed to be some kind of luxury cruise's supposed to make you pay for your crimes". That's the kind of attitude that makes people laugh all those systemic indignities which are imposed on the inmates. What those people are ignoring is that as usual, it's the little guys who suffer.

In the meantime, word of the new arrival had spread, and someone wanted to challenge me to a game of chess. Undoubtedly I was recognized as being of the "intellectual" class, and worthy of a challegne. I accepted, and defeated my opponent without much difficulty. But the game had hardly ended when word came from Cell Block 8...Dave wanted to play me.

Dave was a tough opponent, who played systematically and logically. Fairly early in the game, he suckered me out of a bishop. Now, when you are up a man, you can grind him down on points, and Dave certainly knew this. He even had a chance to trade queens not long afterwards, but it seems he was enjoying the game and decided to let it play itself out on its merits. He declined to force the trade, and the game proceeded. As a result, I had the opportunity to pull a pretty slick number on him in the end, and was about to make my final move when suddenly I was called back to my cell on urgent business.

It seems Pierce had decided something needed to be done about my sleeping arrangements, and had brokered some kind of deal where I would bunk instead with his next-door-neighbor Derek, whose cellmate Mohammed was being released the next day. I quickly gathered up my clothes and pillow and moved them to my new bunk. I looked in vain for my juice carton, which I had left sitting on the bars because there was nowhere else to put it. I was intensely relieved to find that my list of phone numbers was still there under the mattress where I had stashed it.

Before long, supper trays were served. In remand, meals were pleasant enough. We could eat in our fact, we had to eat in our cells, where Dean and I could both sit comfortably on the floor. This was not an option in Headingly. The cells were much too small. I found a patch of floor near the showers, and sat down to a lonely meal.

Shortly after dinner, I was startled to hear my name being called out by the guards. I jumped up and was quickly escorted out of the cells by two guards to a holding area. Glancing over my shoulder, I caught sight of a third guard making the tell-tale sign of a twirling finger pointing to his right ear.

It seems that Ernest was going to the psych ward.


  1. While I agree that you're nuts, it's not that kind of nuts. I'm interested to hear what you might have done to make them think that though.

    Also, do you have a criminal record now? If so, you no longer qualify for a teaching position, even if you DO win the ill-conceived fight with the University.

  2. Most people can figure out I'm crazy just on general grounds. You don't need a medical degree, just common sense. The person doesn't actually have to "do anything" before people can figure out there's something wrong with him.

  3. Marty won't have a criminal record unless & until he's actually *convicted* of something, either following a trial or a guilty plea.

    I have a funny feeling he's going to wait until he's good and ready to reveal his legal status-- and then only if it suits him to do so.

    There's definitely a memoir here-- but highly doubt there's a legal cause of action against the university.

  4. Marty isn't entirely certain that a criminal record is a legal obstacle to being certified as a teacher.

  5. Well if this blog hasn't done you in, a criminal record sure will

  6. O.K. now this story is getting more pumped with each surpassing events that took place. "It seems that Ernest was going to the psych ward"

    I would have to agree that anyone who goes to jail would be needing psych help and counseling. Mental Health are just words, like any other.