Joey Gordon

I woke up this morning at 6:30 and went to eat breakfast in the chow hall. I sat down in the seat next to where Eddie used to sit. Eddie’s friends had just heard that he’d been put in the hole, so we talked about that over our meal. The consensus seemed to be that Eddie should stick with his own color. He had been hangin’ with a group of “Hesses” (Mexicans), the wrong crowd, and had gotten caught up in nefarious activities. Of course, everyone wishes him the best and hopes he knows what he’s doing, including myself. There was talk of trying to sneak in to the hole to see him or get word to him somehow. Apparently such things aren’t impossible.

I went right back to sleep after breakfast and didn’t wake up until lunch at 11:30. One of the constants of prison life is the schedule. There are periods during the day called movement, when you can put a sign outside your cell, and the guard will come from the control booth and open your door. Then you can go take a shower, go to the library, to the day room to watch TV, to the gym, or to the yard. You have 15 minutes to go where you are going, then you are locked in there until the next movement. There are three movements during the morning, about every hour, three during the afternoon, and three in the early evening after dinner. Three times a day, there is lockdown and count. I don’t know what would happen if I were not in my cell during count, but it would probably be a serious infraction.

All the cell doors open, tier by tier, at meal times, called mainline. My cell door slams open at 6:30 every morning. I have two minutes to get dressed and get out of my cell, or I miss breakfast.  I am planning on getting an alarm clock so that I can wake up a few minutes before 6:30. Seating is taken very seriously in the chow hall. Guys may not allow you to sit at their table if they don’t know you, or if they have heard something about you. I have sat with Eddie from the first day I was here, so I haven’t had any problems. Since he has been in the hole, he wrote a letter to my mom saying that I could sit in his seat at the chow hall while he wasn’t there.

I’m kind of tired now, and it’s only 8:30 p.m. This seems to happen to me every time I get transported to a different institution; a few days later, my system crashes and I spend a couple of days in bed. Prison transport is like a mild form of torture. The guards wake you up at 4:30 and take you to the loading station, where they strip search you, clothe you in an orange jumpsuit, and shackle your legs together and your arms to your waist. Then they load you on the bus. The seats are hard, with very little leg room. You are not allowed to eat, and the times I went, there was no water. My last three prison bus rides lasted eight hours, 10 hours, and six hours, respectively.

I think I’m recuperating from all the stress I’ve endured over the last year. Whenever I thought about going to prison, I would get gripped by anxiety. I had, of course, seen Shawshank Redemption and heard all the stories about young guys getting raped and hardened life-serving convicts walking around with big “shanks” (make-shift weapons). It’s not like that at all here. Violence does occur, but it’s infrequent, and usually avoidable. Drug debts seem to be the most common cause of serious violence.

After lunch, I went to the gym with Stan to play basketball, but nobody picked me, so I just watched until the next gate. Then I went to the library and looked through a few magazines for an hour. At 2:30, I went back to my cell to read a little before dinner. The laundry cart came by with my clean whites which I had dropped off this morning. They were still a little damp, so I rigged up a clothesline and hung them out to dry. The next guard that came by made me take them down.

At 5 p.m, right when my cell door opened for dinner, I got called to the visiting room. My father had come to visit me. He bought me a chicken sandwich, potato chips, juice, and ice cream from the vending machines. He stayed until 8 p.m. We talked about various things and played a few hands of bridge. I wish there were bridge players here, but everyone plays double-deck pinochle. Perhaps one of these days I’ll try to teach a couple of guys how to play.

Eight letters came to me today from family and friends. Mail arrives after lockup at 8:30. I’m going to read a few letters and then hit the sack. 

(Note: All names in this entry have been changed. Also, “Diary” entries are usually posted right after they’re written, but since Joey doesn’t have Internet access, Slate allowed him to write these ahead of time.)