09 December, 2019

A Room of One's Own

A while back, ERDCC's administrative staff surveyed the prison's general population, distributing surveys with just one question on them: Would you be interested in a single-man cell assignment as an incentive for good behavior? Peace and quiet and personal space aren't as popular as I would've assumed. Despite the countless compromises and inconveniences that are involved with sleeping in a bathroom with another man, some weren't tempted by the prospect of living alone.

One could have legitimate reasons for not wanting to live by himself. The fear of being burglarized is one. Without a cellmate, one's chance of having his property or canteen items stolen increases somewhat. This could be because no one's around to keep watch, or because fewer sneak-thieves want to risk pissing off the wrong guy. Sex offenders are certainly more apt to be targeted, so they're less likely to have been interested in their own cell.

Living alone, there's also greater potential for sexual assault. This is probably why one of the rumored forthcoming criteria for living alone will be having already served a certain number of years. Most people who've been locked up for a decade or more know how to navigate the prison environment and don't have problems with predators. Fresh meat would probably avoid a living situation that puts them at increased risk, anyway.

Most people, however, seem to have expressed interest. The deputy warden acknowledged last month that once the prisoners affected by new sentencing guidelines are shipped out, their vacant cells will be made available as bachelor pads. Men who've gone five years without a conduct violation, are custody level five (i.e., maximum-security inmates), and have at least four rehabilitative programs under their belts will be eligible. As I mentioned above, more criteria and conditions will surely be added, but this is a fantastic start. My friend Zach always said that he'd pay rent if the institution would let him live by himself. I'd laugh every time, but in the back of my mind lurked similar thoughts.

The company of others can be wonderful, but it exhausts me. I need solitude for my psychological well-being. And although I'm a reasonable person who recognizes that meeting halfway is usually best for everyone, not having to live with someone whose lifestyle is vastly different from my own is preferable. You want specific examples? Go and read the blog posts I wrote about Bruce, Ray, Hoss, Bob, Tracy, Snake, and Blake, seven truly terrible cohabitants (albeit, not the only awful ones) that I've been trapped in cells with over the years. Then try telling me I'm picky.

My friend Luke and I have talked about this. He's been imprisoned for nearly as long as I have, and he loathes sharing living quarters — even with his good friend Tim, with whom he gets along perfectly well. It's a psychological thing. Being trapped in a box is stressful and undignified enough. Losing the last vestiges of your privacy and range of physical movement because another person has to occupy the same 110 (or so) square feet is beyond the pale. Now I picture the potentially immanent end to my cellmate situation. It's beyond appealing; it's tantalizing.

To not have my sleep disrupted by someone else's snoring, insomnia, or late night snack-crunching! To be solely responsible for the cleanliness of the cell! To preside over the full expanse of the desk — for writing, drawing, typing, or preparing food! To unpack from my footlocker only what minimal stuff I want to see every day, rather than the ugly, immovable clutter of another person's institutional life! To write and read with minimal potential for interruption! To burn the midnight oil, or lie down to make an early night of it, as I see fit! To not get stuck waiting for someone's conversation to wind down so I can empty my bladder! To exit the space for a few hours, confident that my documents aren't being read, my food isn't being eaten, and my stuff, in general, isn't being abused!

It wouldn't be a restoration of my freedom, but it'd definitely be a step in the right direction. My only question is How long will it be before can I sign up?

1 comment:

  1. you are certainly eligible for a suite. Your conduct has been impeccable. The first part of your blog however has me worried. A new way to navigate around that.


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