Thursday January 21st, 2016

Doing Time: Keeping Busy

When you come into prison for the first time you are fresh out of county jail. Which is somewhat horrific. However, you are cacooned in this small area for a set period of time and going to prison represents that cacoon being terminated. You get off the bus and you are immediately hit with lining up and getting chains taken off and getting stripped down to nothing for a small period of time. You even have to see mental health in your underwear. Kind of demeaning, but laughable after a while.
When you are finally given a cell, you find out quickly that showering is going to be interesting. In the intake prisons you are lined up with a whole tier, or about 50 guys and you all stand there in your underwear and shower stuff and wait your turn for a shower head. There are no barriers, no dividers and no staff. You better keep your head down and your guard up. That’s the introduction to prison. 
However, when you get assigned an institution things get dramatically better. You get more freedom to move around, independent showers, and by that I mean dividers and you can shower anytime the dayroom is open. It is a drastic improvement on the previous situations. When you talk to the guys that are generally happy and calm in this environment and ask them what they are doing to remain that way, they usually say the same thing “get a routine and adjust it how you need to suit you, settle in and don’t deviate.” So you try to do anything to establish a routine. Your previous routine is no longer acceptable, after all your now in prison.
So you work and attend whatever classes are available and go to the gym when it’s open and usually learn to count cards with a good game of pinochle. There are obvious other choices, but to me they weren’t even options. I didn’t gamble, don’t watch football, and wasn’t interested in joining wannabe prison gangs. So I worked and attended counseling and did everything possible to work on what was broken inside me. The list was long…
Here I am today, I have a regimented routine that I established 3 years ago. I do the same thing every morning. I have to work now, at least 6 hours a day doing something that is considered work. I get paid .42 cents an hour to cook for 2000 people. Every day. and I can only make up to $55.00 a month. Which is 131 hours or work. I generally work around 160-170 hours a month. But still only get 55. Out of that 55, I only get 60%, which is 33, and I tithe, because I can’t afford not to, out of that 55, I take “home” 27.50.
But here is the thing, I am not unhappy. There is something to be said for being able to maintain in this environment and still stay out of trouble. I haven’t had an infraction of any sort for over 2 1/2 years, nothing…in fact it may even be longer than that now. LOL! I am satisfied with the current conditions. I have established in my mind that this is what I have to deal with, there is no changing it, net yet. So I have made a niche for myself. I routine. I have done something to improve myself and continue to practice that daily.
Not everyone in here is lost. Please, please, please understand that I am not happy being the man I was when I came in here. I wanted to be different but genuinely had no idea how to change. I was just blind. Now, through much help, I am no longer dumb to the idea that I had the ability to be different. To change my circumstances, not later, but right here and right now and it started with my attitude. An attitude that I can complete control of. 
So I stay busy, doing whatever is possible for me to do. I wish that there was more for me to do to improve myself still. But I am content with what is available.
Know this, I am not sitting dormant, learning to be a better criminal. I am always trying to improve. can’t wait to get out!

With Love,

Jeff Utnage