09 February, 2022

Recovering from Lockdown

Three days without a shower, without a hot meal, without talking or writing to anyone beyond my cell, could've been much worse. After multiple incidents of multiple stabbings last week, the shit really hit the fan on Monday. Rumor had it that a staff member was assaulted in one of the GP houses. The prison administration decided to put a hold on the violence, halting all prisoner movement and communication for an indeterminate period of time.

To be sure, with all of us locked up tight, eating brown-bag meals, taking medication delivered to our own doorways, taking birdbaths (if cleaning ourselves up at all) in our sinks, further assaults were unlikely. Lockdowns are temporary solutions, of course. As soon as everyone is cut loose again, pandemonium can return. Thus came the goon squad.

On day two of our hermitage, I discovered that the toilet wouldn't flush. This is standard practice for shakedowns, so no one can use the commode to dispose of anything. I woke my cellmate with the news of impending havoc, and we braced for impact.

With predictable recklessness, black-clad guards from prisons all around the state descended on every wing of every housing unit here and wrecked up the joint but good. Their search objectives were, ostensibly, drugs and dangerous contraband. So-called nuisance contraband left with them too – empty bottles and boxes, hooks and pictures hung to walls, expired medication, and most anything stockpiled by the hoarders among us. They also emptied everyone's trash, which was nice.

We found the cell a mess, however, when they allowed us back into it. My typewriter lay under his bath towel, on his bunk. One of his dirty socks was in one of the bowls I eat out of. My shelf of canteen foodstuffs looked to have been churned – stuff from the back was at the front, and stuff from the front was in the back. I was glad not to have left any open containers there.

The rest of the days passed. I finished reading a book, then read two more. For the first time since we got JPay tablets, in 2018, the administration had deliberately turned off the prison's Wi-Fi. (How strange that concept seems!) I decided against banking e-mails to send whenever this was over. By then I could more fully explain what happened. The app deletes message drafts older than twenty-four hours, anyway.

There was a local news report about the incident, although I didn't see it. I officially rescinded my news blackout a couple of years ago, but I still don't often watch. I figure that anything important or relevant will filter down to me eventually. In this case, on our first day of relative freedom, when wings were released to breakfast one walk at a time, a neighbor sat at my table and shared what he'd seen reported: that it hadn't just been a regular assault, that someone had stabbed a housing unit manager who was now in the hospital. I used to be in a wing with the guy who did it. My opinion was that he was unstable, so I kept a good distance between us. It looks like I won't have to worry about that anymore; he's going to disappear for a while.

What might today bring for the rest of us? The Wi-Fi's back on, which is a good sign. Laundry, canteen, and factory workers were called back to their jobs. Some words about showers were muttered by a guard at breakfast, but that's still speculatory. I'm eager to get back to work, too, but I'm more excited about cleaning myself up. Birdbaths just don't do it for me.


  1. I'm glad the lockdown is lifted. Hopefully you go back to work soon and showers are started even sooner. You know, here in Ethiopia, a few times the government shut off the internet in the entire country. It's usually done to control news leaks and damage control when there are protests in different regions.

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Byron does not have Internet access. Pariahblog.com posts are sent from his cell by way of a secure service especially for prisoners' use. We do read him your comments, however, and he enjoys hearing your thoughts very much.