10 November, 2021

Go Ahead, Fence Me In

When five galvanized steel poles spring up in front of the house one morning, every prisoner in the unit reels with indignance. My thought: what harm will a few more fences do? Never mind the futility of getting outraged at what can't be controlled, I don't see how rendering our existing boundaries as real, tangible barriers hurts anyone.

We're already bounded by so many fences, not least of which is the lethal electric one that surrounds this place. The administration decided several months ago that each housing unit would get its own little recreation area, complete with pullup bars, dip bars, and a gate that opens onto the institution's main walkway. Once they're enclosed this way, prisoners assigned to one unit will no longer be able to slip into another unit and get up to mischief – the thefts, assaults, and daring little social calls that they currently do.

Accidental trespass is possible, too. Just the other day, as I was about to leave for work, I saw a resident of 5-House enter my wing and gaze around, wearing a very confused expression. He groped for the ID card clipped to his chest, as if to hide the yellow 5-B dot signifying him as an interloper in 6-B, then beat a hasty retreat. (In his defense, all houses at ERDCC do look the same.) This sort of thing soon won't happen anymore, after the fence project is finished.

"You won't be able to go nowhere except service and programs," one disgusted prisoner says to another when I pass them on the walk. "Ain't gonna be no more skating."

In my twenty years locked up, I've skated four times. Each time, I stepped out of bounds only because an obstinate guard wouldn't let me go where I was actually supposed to be. I just walked out, ignoring their shouts to come back. Technically, I suppose, this wasn't skating at all but occupies a gray area that could've resulted in a conduct violation, which might or might not have stuck at the hearing. Some people consider it their personal duty to skate multiple times each day, just for shits and grins.

"It's bullshit," says the other prisoner to the first. "How we supposed to get anything done?"

People who behave like him are the very reason these fences are called for. Patrick Henry famously said that those who give up their freedom for safety deserve neither. I don't see these fences as a curtailment of anything, merely a reinforcement of what's already in place. If anything, I see this fence project as the institution making good on its promise to maintain safety and security. ERDCC is so lax about so many things. A little more enforcement of rules will do everyone some good.

1 comment:

  1. As long as it works for the safety of everyone involved­čĹŹ


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