It was my first morning waking up in prison. The day before leading to my arrival started at dawn so I slept hard that night. The next morning, the unit officer, referred to as “CO” – short for Corrections Officer – woke me up at 5:30 AM while doing his regular morning “count”.
“Doce, you good,” He asked.
All I could make out was his silhouette as his flash light shined brightly in my face. “Yeah,” I replied with hesitation, while thinking at the same time, “am I?”
Suddenly I was hit by the foulest smell. I looked and my toilet was backed up with raw sewage.
“CO!” I tried to call out before he slipped off. “My toilet is backed up, and shit is pouring into my cell.” He walked back and looked at me with a blank stare an said, “This is prison,” and walked off leaving me with a memory that I will never forget.
Little did I know that his comment, “This is prison”, will become a mantra. Those words echo through these walls as if we’re programmed to stop asking questions once we hear them.
* * * * *
I often think when a judge sentences a person to prison, what else comes with that condemnation. I mean, regardless of the guilt and innocence issue, a person is taken away from the free world, taken from his or her family and friends, and everything about their lives is controlled. So, basically an incarcerated person can’t do the things that people on the street can do, period.
My question is, who decides that prison isn’t enough, and who says confinement is only PART of the punishment. Because by law, my confinement in itself is supposed to be the penalty; and the extra layers of hardships that are placed on me is an added consequence that has no basis in the criminal code.
In here, the phrase, “This is prison” is used for everything. I would love to learn which criminal code or statute provides this terminology as an official excuse:
“I’m freezing in my cell.” … “This is prison!”
“The food is spoiled and the fruit is rotten.” … “This is prison!”
“There’s no job training for my release.” … “This is prison!”
“There is no extended education after your GED.” … “This is prison!”
Unfortunately, the list for the usage of this terminology is endless. I just want to know why this is so common in prison for prisoners to be voiceless. Why can’t I get healthy food, why are my unit and cell spaces crawling with critters, and why there is nothing to do in here except to exist in a cell.
“This is prison” isn’t good enough anymore, my humanity itself – condemned as it may – demands better.
ve much hope in the evil system of mass incarceration and the powers that run it to change. But the world needs to see what really goes on in here, and the society needs to know what is taking place in its name. I still hold on to the hope in humanity and I’m counting on the world that it still cares.
–By Michael J. Doce