Joey Gordon

I was out of bed and half dressed when my cell door opened at 6:30 a.m. I rushed through breakfast and got back in bed as quickly as I could. I try to sleep as much as I can here, to make the day shorter. I got up again at 9:30 for an appointment at the infirmary. My throat has been bothering me for the last three weeks. The doctor told me it was probably due to a wrestling match I had been in with one of my cellies back in the penitentiary. The guy was a street fighter and he grabbed me by the neck.

I returned to my unit with a prescription for ibprofen. I showered and read from my Anne Rice novel for a few hours. I have done more reading since I have been incarcerated than I ever did in my previous life. In the county jail, I read War and Peace.

I ate lunch with Stan, tuna fish sandwiches with pickles and lettuce. I grew up with an aversion to tuna fish, which I have been forced to overcome. After lunch, I went to the library for an orientation meeting. A few older prisoners talked about some of the programs and classes available to us. Apparently there were a lot more programs available during the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Still, I found a couple of programs that looked interesting. I signed up for a class on public speaking, something called the Brain Gym, and Alcoholics Anonymous. A guy from the outside talked to us about industries jobs. Industries jobs are hard to get, because they pay minimum wage. All the other jobs around the facility pay about $1.00 per hour. Everybody starts with 90 days in the kitchen. Then, there are other jobs such as laundry and porter. I think you have to ask for a job, but pretty much anybody who wants one can have one. This is in contrast to the penitentiary, where guys like me who are in maximum security have almost no chance to get a job. Out of the money you earn, about 50 percent is deducted for the costs of your incarceration, victim’s restitution, and for a trust fund that you get when you get out. The rest goes on your books and can be spent on commissary items.

I spent a couple of hours out in the yard reading and walking the track. During dinner, I sat with Mason and talked some more about Eddie. Another guy at the table said that Eddie will be sent to the penitentiary. That was a little disheartening. After dinner, I had a softball game. My team is not so good and we lost 12-1. It seems like the best players are all on the same teams, so the games are usually not very competitive. The old-timers sat on the concrete bleachers and heckled us. I played second base. I fielded one grounder for an out at first, but I let another grounder get by me. I got up to bat twice for two pop flies. If I had known I would be spending this much time playing softball, I would have worked more on my skills.

After the game, I was on my way out of the yard when I saw Eddie! He had just gotten out of the hole. We shook hands and did a sort of masculine hug. He was with his Mexican buddies, and said he’d talk to me later. It was good to see him. With wind in my sails, I headed off to the library. Standing outside was an attractive young woman, perhaps a little older than me. I figured she was probably one of the teachers. She had a kind of gothic look to her; short black hair, dark makeup, slender build. She didn’t seem at all uncomfortable in a prison. I, of course, fell in love with her instantly. I wanted to talk to her, but figured she probably gets bothered enough as it is, so I went into the library and leafed through a Rolling Stone. Then I perused the list of cassette tapes available for checkout.

I came back to the unit at 8 p.m. I gave my dad a call and discussed the matter of his mailing clothing in to me. I can receive one package of clothing each three months, limited to 10 items each package. There are very specific rules about what clothes are acceptable, and if an item gets rejected, I don’t have another opportunity for three more months. Clothes can’t be a dark color, they can’t have any words or logos, they can’t have a hood, they can’t have elastic at the bottom, etc. I also have to take into consideration the opinions of the other inmates—clothes can give the wrong appearance and get you into trouble.

All outgoing phone calls are collect, and nobody can call in to me. The cost of the calls seems outrageously high compared with what we pay these days for long-distance. Even when I was in the same city as my folks, each call would cost them $2. When I was on the other side of the state, a 15-minute call would cost them $15. On their end, they get a long spiel about how this is a collect call from an inmate incarcerated in a state correctional institution. Sometimes they would get the beginning of the call, but then it would just cut off before we were connected. This was very hard for them, especially in the beginning when contact was so precious. On my end, I don’t hear anything until somebody accepts the call. I don’t know if the call didn’t go through, if nobody was home, or if they didn’t accept the call. The maximum call length is 15 minutes, after which we get cut off. Usually the phone system warns you when you have a minute or 30 seconds to go, so you can say goodbye.

I am now locked down for the evening. I’ll read some more and then get some sleep.

(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.)