I’ve missed the newspaper. Sure, I write articles for our prison newsletter, but that is very different from the newspaper I’m referring to. This particular newspaper always reports the news before anyone else finds out. It contains news that isn’t even available online. It spits out headlines first thing in the morning, even before the Associated Press gets notified, and often provides updates late at night. It is filled with descriptive and colorful details and anecdotes. If anyone has questions or concerns, all he has to do is consult this newspaper for instant answers. And here’s the best part: about 20 percent of the time, the answers actually turn out to be true!
For those of you who might be confused at this point, let me help you understand. You see, the newspaper isn’t a paper at all. It’s a person. Let’s call him T.
Fancy hotels have concierges. Orofino’s prison dayroom has T, an inmate with horns tattooed on his head, who claims to be a cannibal. He knows no more and no less than most other inmates, but he speaks his message in a clear and compelling way, like a televangelist. He captivates his fellow inmates with his facts and figures, his confidence, his aura. People line up in the dayroom to talk to him, as if they’re at the information counter at Chicago O’Hare.
“Inmate.com” is our typical slang phrase for “prison gossip told by inmates.” Often, if we are unsure of the authenticity of a rumor, one of us might ask, “is that legit or is that just inmate dot com?”
An inmate would reply something like, “Word, dawg, it’s legit.” Or, perhaps, “It’s legit. I put it on my word.” Nobody ever admits that their rumor is merely Inmate.com. Everyone wants to be CNN or Fox News. Nobody wants to be the National Enquirer. “Word. It’s for real, homie. This ain’t no inmate dot com shit. Believe that.”
“Extra, extra, read all about it. 30 inmates are being moved out of state tomorrow, and 50 more on Wednesday or Thursday.
People are nervous. “Oh no, oh no what if it’s me? How can I get out of it? What are the requirements? Is it true they don’t have a toilet on the bus? Will it be a short bus or a normal bus? Will it be a van? Is it true we are shackled together for 72 hours? Who can I talk to? Is it true we might get to fly on con air? How can I call my family? How long will they keep me? Should I go to medical and see if they’ll put a stop to it? But I have a job here…I can’t lose my job!”
They’re stressed out because the newspaper is telling them that they’ll get treated like shit in Texas, that they won’t be allowed any of their property, that the rec yard is just a cement cage, that there is no jpay, so estamps will be worthless. Someone else spread the rumor that to make up for the lack of amenities, they have Encore and Starz movie channels at the Texas facility, and are considering conjugal visits. (Clearly bullshit, but I play along with the rumor spreaders. Inmates are dreamers, too). But the newspaper claims Texas cancelled their contract, that “everyone knows that,” and that everyone will soon move to Louisiana or they’ll be forced to return to Idaho. How does he know? He heard the corporal talking about it earlier with theLieutenant, he said. He heard this, he heard that. Therefore, it’s a fact. (His readers all nod in agreement.)
Here’s what I know for sure. 150 Idaho inmates were moved in February to a private facility in Karnes City, Texas, run by GEO Group. Idaho has contracted for up to 1000 inmates to be moved…but they may never reach that number, and if they do, it might take well over a year. If inmates have a parole hearing in less than 3 years, they likely won’t be moved out of state.
Other than that, who knows? I criticize the newspaper, but really, he’s just keeping with society’s trends. He is just trying to “stay relevant,” as they say in the industry. Fake news, front and center. Entertainment value over content. Shock value over substance. That’s what people want, after all. And at least the subscription is free.
Categories: Stephen Newman