Stephen Newman

Three Items On Your Locker by Stephen Newman

The Lieutenant came into our cell this afternoon to inform us that beginning tomorrow, we can only have three items on top of our locker (not including electronic items). In addition, everything under our bed, everything on our TV shelf, and everything on the shelf above the toilet (he said this isn’t our personal storage shelf) also has to be removed and placed inside of our locker. The only thing allowed on the floor is our shoes. He also told us that our dirty-laundry bag can’t hang from the hooks on the wall — it, too, has to go inside of our locker. Eww.

This evening we spent hours trying to cram everything into our lockers. It was like a game of Tetris. I had several folders of paperwork under my bed, which I stuffed into my locker. I had the box that held my 15″ television. It fit nicely between our two lockers and worked as a nice shelf to hold our power strip (and it’s also where I would charge my tablet). It now kind of “floats” inside of my locker, balancing on a bunch of random items like bowls, books, sporks, and boxers. Everything fits, but it will definitely discourage me from getting anything out of my locker, as a landslide would then be imminent.

To make room, I had to throw away salt shakers, old barbecue sauce, cilantro, cinnamon, a coffee container, and old magazines and catalogs. I also had to fill out a “property disposition” form for a trash bag filled with items that I need to turn into the property office. It would have been easier to just throw these items in the trash, BUT…if I did that, then the property officer would think I still owned the items. For instance, we are only allowed one set of headphones. If I threw my headphones away, their records would show that I still owned a pair of headphones. If I ever tried to purchase new headphones, I wouldn’t be able to. So in the bag for the property office, I have: 3 pairs of boxers, a t-shirt, 8 books, broken headphones, a blanket, a calculator that I haven’t used in four years, reading glasses, a towel, my stinky size 12 New Balance walking shoes (just this week I got a new pair of Rawlings shoes for $49), and a hodgepodge of other items.

The Lieutenant let us know that he would be inspecting our units at 6:30 tomorrow morning, and that we better have everything taken care of.

Uh oh. I wasn’t able to take the bag to the property office, because tonight and every Monday night is a “transport night”. It’s when new inmates are bussed up to this prison from prisons in Boise. On transport days, the property officer is busy processing the new inmates’ property, and doesn’t have time for anything else.

To avoid getting in trouble tomorrow morning, I asked Officer Rado what I should do with the bag of items waiting to go to property. If I had them on the floor, I’d get yelled at. But I have no space for them in my locker, I can’t throw them away, and the property office is closed.

He told me to tie the bag up, tape the disposition form onto the outside of the trash bag, and place the bag underneath my bed. He stressed that I should not have the bag anywhere near the door of our cell, so that the Lieutenant wouldn’t trip over it when he walked in. And he told me to tell the Lieutenant that I’m waiting to take the items to the Property office, but that they weren’t open on Monday. Hopefully I won’t get yelled at too much. The last thing I need is to get in trouble just one day prior to my parole hearing.

For most who are reading this, cleaning your bedroom would be so simple, right? You can throw away your old shoes. You can put old clothes in a bag for the Salvation Army to pick up. You can put stuff in the garage. Or you can leave things on the floor and nobody will yell at you at 6 in the morning. In prison, simple tasks like getting rid of old underwear turns into a complex process rife with rules, paperwork and fear.

The good news is that within a few weeks, the “3 Items On Your Locker” rule will likely fade away, and a new rule will take its place as the “rule of the month.” By March, I’ll probably be able to keep my coffee mug, my toothbrush, my dental floss pick, and my two sporks back on top of my locker. But by then, I may only be allowed to own one spork. Let’s hope not!

For the time being, the aforementioned items shall remain INSIDE my locker…on the shelf next to my pickle juice, AAA batteries, and letters from Anja.

(Update: After enough complaints, staff has made a concession: We may again hang our dirty laundry bag on the coat hanger hook on the wall. Too many people were disgusted at the prospect of storing their sweaty socks and underwear in a stuffy locker inches away from clean laundry and food.)

Stephen Newman
DOC #90843

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