I got moved to ICC – a private prison at the time – run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). (They’ve since changed their name to CoreCivic).
The first year at ICC was rough. I lived in a big open dorm with 59 guys, with 21 small cubicles providing partial privacy. And by partial, I mean that when I sat up to watch TV, I had to avoid eye contact with people who were showering and pooping a few feet past my television.
I had a couple of idiots as cellmates. I’m an only child, accustomed to being alone. Prior to prison, I was never much of a people person. I could have been the poster child for Introverts Anonymous, yet suddenly here I was surrounded by people — loud people — morning, noon, and night.
I remember some early mistakes I made. My first night there, I walked barefoot to the restroom at 2 AM. Nobody said anything to me until later that next afternoon, when it felt like an intervention. Several people had a group meeting with me to tell me to wear shower shoes into the restroom, and that walking barefoot is disgusting.
Another time, I said playfully, “oh you bitch,” but soon learned that was one of the two words you never say in prison…EVER. The guy told me since it was my first day, he’d let it slide, but normally he would have beat my ass on the spot. Good to know. A little free on-the-job training, I suppose.
I also quickly learned that the people who go out of their way to talk to you, when you first arrive, are the people to watch out for. The “really nice” guy who offers to let you borrow his coffee mug or listen to his radio — he is the dangerous manipulator. The guy who helps you fill out your commissary order form the first time, “just so you know how to do it properly” will end up stealing from you. Your real friends are the ones you will meet, by happenstance, months later.
My divorce was finalized in February. I began taking whatever classes were available to me, as a distraction. I took a meditation class called “Houses of Healing” and a class on “Grief and Loss.” Most inmates were grieving the death of a loved one. Me, I was grieving my ex-wife leaving me. I was grieving the loss of my marketing business. My $216,000 salary. My freedom. My friends. So much loss.
Categories: Stephen Newman