Tuesday, March 3, 2015

March 3 - Prison Tips, Toilets and Concerts

Tuesday, March 3

When Clayton met with his family during his visit today, he was very excited because he had received mail from a friend in Georgia.  

"I didn't get a chance to look at it yet," he explained, "but I can't wait."  

The mail tends to be delivered in the late evening hours, and his family's visit had come late as well, so he had only just been handed the mail before he was called up by the guard for visitation.  When checking in for visitation herself, Clayton's wife had noted that the guard staff out front were increasingly kinder and very helpful as she established her routine of a daily visit.  They now recognized her as she came through the door, and gave her a smile and a wave as she left each night.

Mrs. Allison also noted that the guards seemed pulled in multiple directions, and wondered if they were short-staffed.  She had seen the process all staff at the prison had to complete to enter the facility, change shifts, and access different areas; running through the same security processes they made all others go through.  Some staff had clear purses they would bring with their private supplies to run through the x-ray machine, and the guards went through a rather funny gear-stripping routine to run through the metal detectors as all their metal gear went through the same scanners.  

She now watched a guard check themselves through that same routine while another guard behind glass in a different room shouted, "You're good!  I watched, so I can verify."  They then entered a brief debate about how to set up the video visitation system because the guard out front had to be in 2 places at once.  The guard behind the glass conveyed that they should just set up the machine early so it would connect automatically when Clayton arrived on his end, noting, "so what if she gets a little extra time...”

Mrs. Allison hoped that the guard staff within the prison weren't as short staffed as they were out front, but felt thankful that they worked so hard to help the public access their loved ones despite the inherent challenges.  

Tip #1: Prison Toilets

Clayton's tip of the day was both amusing and a tad bit scary.

"If your prison toilet backs up," he began, "and the button you use to flush it stops working…? Immediately press the intercom and ask for a plunger!  Do not pass go!  Do not hesitate!"

Clayton reminded his wife that the toilet in the cell was just in the room with them, with no privacy barrier of any kind and no lid.  Having any kind of mess inside the toilet for any period of time would end up building up a smell that could take forever to rid the room, because the cell doors stay shut all day and night unless someone is actively moved to or from the room.  It is also critical to act quickly, because sometimes getting a response - even from the intercom - can take a significant period of time.  He noted that on an earlier occasion, he and Andy had waited more than an hour before someone suddenly spoke from the panel, causing both of them quite a fright.

After hitting the intercom and pleading for assistance, Clayton was surprised to hear the guard respond with an, "Oh, okay.  We’ll reset you.”

What?!” he thought to himself.  "They can reset my toilet?"

The guard then explained that if a certain volume of 'stuff'' gets flushed down the toilet, it is designed to trigger a ‘shut down’ and prevent more 'stuff' from being flushed.  Sure enough, the guards reset his toilet, and it magically began flushing again.

"People need to know this in advance!" he conveyed.  "Help may take time to arrive.  Don't wait and make it even more miserable!"

Tip #2: The Vanity Mirror

Clayton also relayed to his wife that he had an epiphany today about one of the items on the commissary list.  He had seen a small hand-held mirror when looking through the items, but ignored it at the time.  Now he wished he had not delayed in its purchase.

He explained that he had been shaving with every opportunity for a shower.  This was the only time a safety razor would be offered to you for use, and Clayton explained that it didn't work very well.  Even more frustrating, Clayton was not used to shaving without a mirror.  He explained that even though the walls of the shower were metal, they were painted white and non-reflective.  He was having immense trouble, and discovering patches on his face he had missed entirely after returning to his cell.

Then today he realized... that is what the mirror on the commissary list would be for!  Don't delay in purchasing one if you need to shave.

Tip #3: Prison Jobs Come With Risks

Clayton also mentioned that he learned something from an inmate in another cell earlier this morning.  The man was taking a shower and chatting with the inmate in the cell next to him.  Clayton explained that you could hear so clearly between cells in the block, and even between showers and cells, that it was nearly impossible not to overhear other inmates' conversations.  

The man in the shower was talking about something that he claimed happened to him due to his job in the prison.  The prison has many different types of jobs, and Clayton had seen at least one with the prisoners that would come in at night and clean the hallways.  This man had apparently landed a ‘coveted’ job at GCCC, working within a warehouse outside where they stock supplies.

An inmate was telling the man in the cell next to him that he had been charged with conspiracy to sell narcotics because of the job.  He had been the only one working when someone from outside tried a drug drop at the prison and it was discovered.  He was charged and convicted with extra time in prison due to the discovery. Clayton said the man was absolutely ranting about the incident.  While Clayton realized that the inmate truly could have been guilty, he also knew first hand just how little 'evidence' was really needed to convict someone of a circumstantial accusation.
Clayton explained that the job the man had at the prison was so highly coveted because it allowed the person to be outdoors.  Apparently, some jobs like this are highly valued, but also carry a dangerous risk because you can be found guilty by association if something happens while you are working. He also noted that you could be in danger of threats by other prisoners too.  While at MSPT Clayton had been threatened by a man who wanted Clayton to run drugs, and the man threatened violence against his family on the outside.  Thankfully, he wasn't confronted again because he was moved shortly after.  

“Consider the risk before you take a job,” Clayton warned, "the benefits may not outweigh what could happen to you."

Late Night Concert in Segregation

On a lighter note, Clayton explained to his wife that he had once again been kept up all night, but that it wasn't due to the typical yelling and screaming between inmates.  Instead, there had been a concert!

He wasn't sure what lead to the event, but theorized that it may have something to do with the arrival of coffee in commissary earlier in the week.  Apparently there is a man in segregation, who Clayton had not seen personally, who had an amazing voice.  Clayton said that he had a deep voice with a thick accent, and an amazing talent for singing.

The man sang numerous songs in other languages, many of which were reggae-sounding.  People began banging with cups and on cell walls to keep time as the man sang.  He couldn't understand the words to most of the songs, although many of the men obviously could.  However, he said the fan favorite was by far was an old Bob Marley song he recognized called Get Up Stand Up.    The lyrics say, "Stand up for your rights.  Get up.  Stand up."  Inmates began shouting, clapping and carrying on; cheering to the man to continue.  The man sang until 3 or 4 am.

"It was like an AM concert," Clayton said with a laugh.

Finally!  The Handbook!  

Clayton confirmed to his wife that he had been given the opportunity last night, as the staff had assured her he would have, to finally read the GCCC Segregation Handbook.   The handbook was brought to his cell by a guard and he was given 1 hour to read it.  Fortunately, Clayton is a speed-reader so he was able to read over the material around 3 times; but his wife realized that with her own reading disability she would probably not have gotten through it in that time.

Clayton said the information from the handbook had been extremely helpful.  He had learned about room inspections, hygiene requirements, mail, and more.  He had not realized before that if he had attempted to mail something to his family without the proper return address (which he had never even seen before) already on the envelope, it would have been returned to him.

"It was so helpful!" he said with thanks to her.

However, the visit also left Clayton with additional concerns.  He said the guard had communicated to him, yet again, that he needed to get his family to stop talking to the prison.  The guard expressed that they could, "Make things difficult for him."  He also told Clayton that it didn't matter what the handbook said (about prisoners all being given a copy as an introduction along with a bag of basic supplies).  It wasn't done.  He said that prisoners only wasted and destroyed them.  He said that "Only troublemakers ask for the handbook;" implying that it was only people who wanted to call guards out on violating the rules.   Mrs. Allison commented that it seemed a bit like a self-fulfilling prophecy if they never gave the information out in the first place.

Clayton expressed that this series of comments from so many guards truly had him worried.  He was frightened of being cut off from his family, and had heard stories of this happening to other inmates for various reasons.  He didn't want his family to help him if it meant losing them.  Nothing is more important to Clay than his daily visit.

Clayton also asked his wife to relay some of the awkwardness of prison life to his friends and family when it came to communication.  Some of them hadn't realized that when he calls on the phone, he is still in his cell, calling on a phone through a hole in the door.  This means that he is still in the same room with his cell mate, who is likely to be able to hear every word of the conversation; much like sitting with someone in a small room of your own house while you're on the phone.  He encouraged them not to ask questions about what his cell mate was like, or express things to him that they hoped would not be overheard by others.

Also, Clayton wanted to pass along a similar reminder for individuals sending him mail.  He is overjoyed with every letter he gets, but wants to make sure people realize that all letters are read by the prison guard staff before being provided to him.  Make sure all mail adheres to prison mail policies to ensure that the mail actually gets to him, and don't write anything to him that was too private for a stranger to read.

Clayton's Day

Earlier in the day, Andy had managed to get a deck of cards passed to them through one of the guards from another inmate.  Clayton was beginning to teach Andy his favorite card game, rummy.  So far... Clayton was losing.

Andy had gotten mail from his family the night before.  They had set up a land-line phone for him to be able to call.  Andy had been very excited to get the phone, but was heartbroken when he discovered that the land-line was an Anchorage number, and prisoners are not allowed to dial long-distance phone numbers unless the person has already established a Securus account.  Even worse, Andy's letter contained distressing news about events happening to Andy's family which he was not able to discuss with them.

"God knows who Andy is," Clayton said, "So please pray for his family if you think of him."

Clayton said he and Andy discuss the bible with each other all of the time.  They will read passages on their own and then discuss points of the stories they were reading, and how they might apply to their current situation.  He encouraged his family to read 2 Corinthians 4:8-12.  Clayton also continues to be pleased with the Our Daily Bread devotional, which today was discussing the concept that everything has a time and a season.  He asked his family to find out if they could sign up for him to receive the new booklets regularly.  The booklets are set-up like quarterly calendars.

Clayton also realized as he was moved back and forth from his cell, that the news he had heard playing on earlier days was from a radio, not a television.  Apparently after 5 PM, the guards turn on a radio turned to local news and let it play for 1-2 hours.  This is one of the additional ways that inmates have access to the news.

Clayton also received 3 magazines with his mail today; 3 editions of Hunt Alaska, and 1 edition of Fish Alaska.  He was very excited to get to read them.  They appeared to be magazines that had been ordered for Clayton by friends while he was still in the general population at MSPT.  Along with his mail, he also received information from the prison on how to order books and magazines from segregation, and an approved list of book vendors.  Used books were not allowed for purchase.  The handbook has explained that only “pay-up front” orders were allowed, no 'trial subscriptions' or other arrangements are allowed which would be considered contracts.  The handbook also explained that he would only be allowed 5 magazines and 5 books in his possession at any given time.  

In wrapping up, Clayton informed his wife that he had received a cop-out response to the question about his book balance, along with a receipt for additional funds she had deposited the night before.  The response explained that the lack of balance in his account had been an error, and had been corrected.  He also reminded her that he had filed a property dispersal form (for his suit, shoes, etc.) which she should eventually be able to pick-up in person.  Otherwise, his cell was finally clean, he was as clean as he could manage, and he was happy.  

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