My Cell

After months of Friday morning inspections, our overlords have now gone to a “snap”, or unannounced, inspection format. They said as much last Friday, but I forgot, as did my ‘cellie’. We consequently greatly displeased the CA (camp administrator) and his associate who is our ‘Counselor’. My cellie displeased them by having his bed unmade and lots of stuff on top of his locker. I displeased them by having 3 or 4 books on top of my locker, several rolls of toilet paper on the hooks that are wall fixtures, and perhaps worst of all, a picture of my grandkids paper-clipped to a magnetic-backed mirror that I have on the front of my metal locker. I say “worst of all” because I have been warned about this before.

A couple inspections ago, the counselor noticed this for the first time. I don’t know whether he noticed it because previously the picture I had there was a postcard pic of a watercolor of a canoe in a stream, and now it was a portrait of 3 small humans, and a) fully-clad humans are not allowed per regulation, or b) he was particularly fond of outdoor pictures and I had removed the approved pic without approval. I would rush to defend myself to you, dear reader, by saying I’ve not seen the regulation that pertains to this matter, but I learned at trial that my ignorance of the law is no defense, either from the charge that I broke the law, or even from the claim that I did so with intent and knowledge. [Furthermore, this was as a component of my scheme and artifice to defraud.] And so, I ask for no sympathy.

One wonders if pics of inmate’s grandchildren may be particularly galling, since it could be perceived as a surreptitious effort to shame and guilt-trip the overlords or their agents (commonly called the “po-lease”), by causing them to reflect on the innocence of children who have their grandparents or parents removed from their lives. But I digress.

As a former volunteer into the U.S.Armed Forces, I have familiarity with inspections and regulations governing the uniformity of on-compound living spaces. I was particularly familiar during that time known as “basic training”. We were given then to understand each bed required “hospital corners” and your shaving cream could be no other place than the upper-right corner of your foot locker’s tray BECAUSE if you couldn’t master those small details then you most assuredly could not be trusted to work on a jet engine, or in my case, a radio transceiver. This argument had impeccable logic on its side.

But why “hospital corners” now? A lot of us in here are eligible for social security. A little late for learning discipline or proving adept at mastering intricate details. Any whose previous work required precision by reason of life or death consequences, has all but certainly lost their license to practice.

So your guess is as good as mine. Meanwhile, I can assure you that I have no intention at thumbing my nose at those who can throw my wrinkled butt into the “hole”.

But let’s return to what I meant my subject to be- my living quarters, and in particular that 8 X 10′ open air space we call our “cell”. There are two metal frame beds, 2.5 X 6.5′ each. They are not bunk beds, so subtracting the area of surface they require from 80 sq. feet leaves 48 sf. Subtracting the space that 1 locker occupies (the other hangs on the wall with available floor space beneath it), a 2-drawer file cabinet, a trash receptacle and 2 plastic stools, leaves 39 sf. That is equivalent to a 5 X 8 room (i.e. closet) for 2 people, or 4 X 5′ for each.

Now, I mentioned 1 locker that hangs on the wall. That one is mine. It’s 22 X 36 X 18″ deep. By my calculation, that’s 8.6 cu ft (what’s your refrigerator?). That is my clothes closet, medicine cabinet, linen closet, file cabinet, desk drawer, food pantry, kitchen cabinet and book shelf.

In a sane world, how much gall would it take to fault a resident, living in a room that size, with another person sharing it, who finds it helpful to set a half dozen books on top of his one and only storage compartment?

But then, perhaps I underestimate the system. Perhaps there is a necessary level of aggravation an inmate should endure (on average) to prevent them from recidivism. And perhaps the average corrections officer, by himself, would not generate quite enough aggravation to suit the higher purposes. That being the case, maybe the grandkids pic, kept off the locker door, perfectly balances the entire system.