august 24, 2012

i'm sitting at my desk drinking water from a plastic mug with a handle.  it's my own room - no cellie! - and the door doesn't lock.  air is coming in from the open window, through which i can see grass and trees.  tomorrow when i go outside i will walk on that grass and visit as many of those trees as i can.  at the expense of cool, i just might hug them.  on Labour Day we're having Sports Day - inmates are encouraged to register in teams of six by august 31. 

that's right folks, i've entered a whole new world.  goodbye maximum security, hello Unit 4!

i can't really describe how amazing it is to feel outside air on my face right now. . .

earlier today i was informed that i'd be moving to Unit 4.  usually sentenced inmates go to 3 but i hear it's full.  or maybe there are people there i'm deemed to be "incompatible with".  i don't think there's much difference between 3 and 4 - they have access to a gymnasium and we don't, but they also have to work long hours for no pay and we don't.  not having the opportunity to work is fine by me, because while i decided early on that i would work if necessary so that i could tell you all about prison labour, i would have felt pretty conflicted about it.  donating my labour to keep a prison running smoothly when i believe prisons should be abolished, and when there are a whole lot of unemployed people who could use those jobs. . .it doesn't sit right.

so anyway, i said my goodbyes, gave out my contact info, wrapped up some loose ends and settled some outstanding food trades.  then i packed up my stuff, said goodbye to cell 12, and here i am.  i'll miss some of the folks on 2F but did i mention that I HAVE MY OWN ROOM!?  and i can go in and out of it at will, and stare out the window whenever and for as long as i want.  these things might not sound like much but after seven and a half months on maximum security they're huge.

there's a lot to take in, and i have the next three months to tell you about life on medium security, for today i'll just share my general first impressions.

first of all, as was explained to us upon arrival, this is a "dorm" and we have rooms not cells.  there's a rotating chore list.  people don 't yell at each other much which means that it is quieter and less tense.  it's a whiter, younger crowd with no visible mental health issues and no trouble understanding and speaking english.  there is privilege here, and because of my own privilege i find it more familiar and easier to navigate.  it really could be mistaken for a university residence in a lot of ways, whereas 2F often felt like as schoolyard minus the responsible adults who resolve disputes.

 the guards are different here too.  they are not behind glass, for one thing, so there is more interaction.  i don't like to get too friendly - it's too weird - but a lot of the inmates chat and joke around with them.  i've noticed a few guards do a double take upon seeing me: "Hiscocks? what are you doing up here?" or "so you finally made it" and so on.  when i arrived i was almost immediately asked to "come here for a minute please" (it's all quite polite here) by one of the guards on duty:

                -you come with some history, obviously.

                -(laughing) my reputation precedes me?

                -your blog precedes you.

heh. anyway, she just wanted to know if i was going to have a problem doing chores. . .it seems more than anything that it was Leah's refusal to work that proceeded me.  but forced free labour and helping to keep our common spaces clean are different beasts entirely and i told her i had no problem whatsoever with chores.

it's almost bedtime.  we stay up later here - we have to go to our rooms at 9pm and lights go out at 10pm.  and they really go out!  exciting.

august 25, 2012

6:30 am

the sun is rising and my room faces east.  last night i could see a planet out my window.  the lights did indeed go out all the way, as i'd been told, but the hallway light stays on and shines through the window in the door - so it wasn't pitch dark, but i slept with the window open to the sound of crickets, and now i'm watching the sun come up and listening to birds.

last night i passed out reading.  i woke up around 2:45am and went out through the common room to the bathroom to brush my teeth (since we're not locked in, there's no need for sinks or toilets in the rooms).  a guard came in with a flashlight:

                -who's in here?


                -what's that you are doing?

                -brushing my teeth.

                -it's 2:45, you can't brush your teeth now.  you can only use the bathroom and go right back to your room.

huh.  i was warned that the guards are more in-your-face here and that even though there's more freedom there are also more rules and expectations.  from now on i will brush my teeth at sanctioned times only :)

12:00 pm

it's after lunch quiet time and i'm in my room again.  i've been in my room a lot since i got here.  i'll describe it to you: as i come in there's a bed on the right and a window and a radiator on the far wall.  between the end of the bed and the radiator are a shelf and a mirror and below them on the floor is my plastic box of projects, papers and mail.  opposite the shelf, beside the window, are a desk and a stool.  my books and bathroom stuff are on the radiator, food is on the shelf, pencils are on the desk.  clothes are at the end of the bed (the frame is longer than the mattress).  there's a space the length of the bed and width of the door that is just big enough for workouts and yoga.

speaking of yoga, this morning two volunteers came in to run a yoga and meditation session in the basement.  i told you Unit 4 was a whole new world!  some things don't change though - earlier i heard someone yell "TV! yay!" followed by people rushing down the hall to the common room.

5:00 pm

well hello there yard.

okay so i was wrong about the tree hugging. . .there are no trees where we go to yard.  but there is grass and a beach volleyball court inside a small dirt track (15 times is a mile).  an instructor came out and went through a cardio and hand weights circuit with whoever wanted to do it.  we're allowed to take water outside in a plastic bottle, which is good because we stay out longer and yard is in the afternoon here so it's hot.

it's after dinner quiet time now and there's a large flock of very loud and hungry birds feeding in the grass outside my window.  i haven't  seen this much life all in one place since january 13.

i'm going to like it here.