Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Feb 18 - Moved Into Long-Term Lodging

Wednesday, Feb 18

Today, Clayton was visited by family during mid-day visitation hours.  He was able to call ahead and notify his wife that he had been moved from the booking area in Mat-Su Pretrial, over to the long-term cell blocks in the same facility around 8 pm last night.  Everyone in this cell block has already completed trial and is serving or awaiting sentencing, which can take months.  He suspects that he may end up in this location until after his own sentencing hearing in June, but there is no way to know for sure.

Clayton was eager to communicate that the move resulted in many drastic changes; some of them positive and some not.  Many of the positives have to do with the facility itself.  Each cell has: a bunk bed, a real porcelain toilet, sink, mirror, and surprisingly a desk with 2 fixed stools.  The cell also has a real door with a tall narrow window, which still locks them in at night.  He was told that inmates apparently sometimes hang things over the window for relative privacy. The lighting is also different, with boxy covered light fixtures attached to the walls instead of the ceiling.  Just like in the former area, these lights never turn off.  However, some inmates have apparently been known to cover the lights with their assigned pink underwear in an attempt to dim the light, resulting in an odd form of pink mood lighting.

The cells are about the same size as in the prior portion of the building, but the ceilings are much higher; resulting in less of a cramped feeling overall.  However, Clay is the third man in his cell, meaning he gets to sleep on a mattress on the floor in the walkway for now.  Thankfully, the mattresses are apparently much better quality than before.

The new cell block is laid out in 2 stories (of only four cells each) with a big common area in the middle and an upper balcony; very much like you would expect from a typical prison movie.  The two levels are connected by a set of stairs, which can be used for exercise.  The common area has a pull-up bar and jump rope available near the TV.  It has four tables like before, but they are round, with small round stools fixed to the ground around them.  Clayton says the TV is a flat screen, not much different in size from the one in our own living room, and it actually has the remote attached to the wall near it.  It seems to receive the same basic channels as the prior TV.

Each level of the cell block has its own shower, which is much  nicer than the steel-walled version from before.  These showers have actual shower tile and the water temperature seems to be much better controlled.  There are small wall-mounted hooks on the walls for your towel, but they cannot take much weight or force before collapsing by design.

While the facility is much nicer than the prior cell block, the population of inmates is radically different.  Some other inmates transferred into this cell block with Clay from the previous location, but he wasn't familiar with any of them.  These new individuals are awaiting sentencing or serving time.  In general they are more aggressive and more serious, but are not suffering the effects of coming down from drugs and alcohol the way many inmates were in the booking area.  

As mentioned before, Clay has two new cell mates.  One is very quiet and keeps to himself, so Clay knows very little about him.  The other has decided to "show him the ropes," as he has been at that facility for more than a year.  For example, he showed Clayton a trick for securing the sheets provided to the mattresses for better sleep.  This fellow says he is a Christian and appears to be at least an amateur artist, who Clayton noted was very good at portraits of the love in his life.  This is also how Clayton learned that inmates are allowed to wear wedding bands, as long as they have no stones and fall below a certain dollar value.  Clayton doesn't have to worry about this complexity himself, since he and his wife have wedding ring tattoos.  Clayton feels very fortunate to have ended up with the cell mates that he has.

Clayton described acclimating to the new location as the process of learning an entirely new set of rules.  Previously, the rule of thumb was to fade into the background and go unnoticed as much as possible.  Here, clarity and politeness are of utmost importance.  He described getting yelled at when he made the mistake of reaching for the pitcher of juice and accidentally crossed slightly into the space above another inmates tray with his arm.  He was informed that the expectation is to ask for someone to pass an item politely, and never come close to entering someone's perceived personal space without addressing them directly.  In fact, the bunk beds do not have ladders to get up and down, despite their considerable height, but the inmate from the upper bunk must request permission to step on the lower bunk before attempting the leap.

Another inmate informed Clayton that the cell block he is currently in set a record for the number of inmates involved in a fight (9) a few months ago, but the number of inmates in any given cell block is relatively small.  When a fight breaks out in the facility, all participants are placed into solitary confinement as punishment.  It makes no difference if they were the aggressor, or simply someone who was attacked.  Therefore, avoiding confrontation is critical.

The most exciting change for Clayton is library privileges.  Previously, Clayton had to listen for the announcement that a trip to the library was available, and the option was not given frequently.  Now, he is fairly sure that he can have library access for one hour each morning, Monday through Friday.  The biggest limitation is that he is only allowed to have 5 books and 5 magazines in his possession.  He looked into whether he will be able to donate items to the library in the future, but their library apparently has as many books as it can currently house (including a law library) and may not be accepting donations.

Today he also got to meet with the prison Chaplain.  Church services are held there on Fridays, with brief visitation also on Wednesdays.  He graciously brought a piece of paper, a pencil, and an envelope for each inmate in attendance, so Clayton can finally write notes if needed in his cell.  The Chaplain also gave Clayton a National Geographic magazine to read with the bible Clay already had from the library.  He will have to purchase stamps through the commissary.

Clayton's Commissary Advice for New Inmates:
#1 Shower Shoes - Apparently many inmates in this facility suffer from some form of skin infection which is transferred by contact with the infected skin and common area surfaces.  He was advised that having shoes to wear in the shower can cut down on the likelihood of catching this infection.
#2 Shampoo - Each inmate is provided with a very small bar of soap, but other inmates have expressed that over the long-term this simply will not cut it without shampoo.
#3 Toothpaste, Toothbrush, and fingernail clippers - These are basics.  (You can request a razor to use each morning at breakfast when needed.)
#4 Stationary - While the Chaplain provided the absolute essentials, you must purchase paper, pencils, envelopes and stamps if you want to send additional mail.

Inmates are restricted on the amount of money they can spend on commissary in any given week based on the amount of time already served, and the amount of time left to serve.  You can find more information at  In addition to commissary, inmates can also receive limited items in the mail, purchased by friends and family, from approved companies like

Clayton's spirits remain high.  He is thankful for everyone who has come to visit him, and sends his love to all of you.  This is the first daily post we have been able to make on his behalf, but we hope to post prior days with descriptions of his experience soon.  The blog titles with contain the dates for each entry.  We also plan to continue with regular updates from him from now on.

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