Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Prison Diary, Part 463

I know I write an awful lot about my 15 months’ incarceration in the Men’s Correctional Facility at Derelict Hills, but that’s because the whole experience was so very jarring for a middle class Jewish boy with a BA like myself, and if you’re really that disgruntled, it isn’t as though there aren’t 17 million other things you could be reading on line if you really wanted to, instead of whining. It isn’t as though I’m holding a gun to your head, as I held one (a plastic one, mind you) to the head of the cashier at the Stop-‘n’-Spend convenience store where my troubles all started, not because I’m a bad person at heart, but because my teammates, for the fun of it, had spiked my cocktail with an animal tranquilizer whose effect was to make me want to date women of questionable morals and hold up convenience stores.

I was lucky enough to be incarcerated a couple of weeks after the State Department of Corrections came to be overseen by Eric “Duffy” Moran, a former inmate who’d earned a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Phoenix while behind bars, and was branded as living proof that dramatic self-rehabilitation was possible even in a correctional setting where inappropriate sexual approaches and drugs were both commonplace.

It was Moran’s view, not at all popular with Republicans, that prisoners who were treated with respect and kindness were far more likely to become useful members of society on their release than those systematically brutalized. Under his stewardship, male and female inmates were regularly bussed to each other’s prisons for so-called “mixers,” at which we would in theory refine our social skills. Special classes were offered in small talk and etiquette to prepare us for these occasions, and I observed personally that they were enormously beneficial. I saw a fellow convict serving a life sentence of murdering and dismembering four prostitutes delight with his charm and wit a trio of gals from our sister prison, the Women’s Correctional Facility at Derelict Hills, and can tell you that it was a heartwarming spectacle.

You might have imagined that, because of the whole testosterone thing, it would have been male inmates who caused most of the trouble at these mixers, but no such thing was the case. It was actually self-proclaimed bull dykes who started both of the riots that I witnessed. Whereas the so-called daddies of the men’s wing were for the most part quite happy to allow their so-called punks — by far the most feminine of all us revelers — to mix and mingle with whomever they chose, their female counterparts tended to the belligerently possessive. This paragraph hasn’t been very funny, but they can’t all be gems.

Heartened by the relative success of our mixers, our respective wardens decided we might be ready for an actual cotillion, at which heels and hose would be required for the ladies and punks. The problem was that all the inmates of the women’s wing were designated ladies regardless of how short their hair might be cropped, how prolifically they might be tattooed, and how many contraband male hormones they might be injecting. Many of these persons had never worn high heels or petticoats, and doing so made them self-conscious and volatile. Krystelle, one of our most desired punks, whose photograph a great many of us displayed on the walls of our cells, made a vaguely catty remark too audibly about the bull dykes’ tottering, and the next thing you knew we were being indiscriminately tased to stop our rioting.

The warden threw the baby out with the bathwater, taking all future mixers off the social calendar, though we’d obviously done fine in a less formal setting. For recreation, we now had to be content with fielding teams to compete against those from The Men’s Correctional Facility at Corpulence, a minimum security lockup popular with the sort of corporate malfeasant whose acts hurt incalculably more people than any 100 muggers’ and drug dealers’ put together. We ate their lunch, so to speak, at baseball, basketball, bowling, and touch football, but they trounced us mercilessly at golf, tennis, croquet, and sailing. We minimized damage to our collective self-esteem by agreeing to regard the latter as less manly.

[Many of my books are now available for download from Amazon. They include The Total Babe & Other Wine Country Yarns, Lentils on the Moon (aka A Message From Jesus in Braille, aka A History of the Jews in the Hudson Valley, Self-Loathing: An Owner's Manual, Third World USA, The Mona Lisa's Brother, and, for baseball nuts, Foul Balls and Alpha Males. You need neither a Kindle nor an iPad to enjoy 'em; simply download (free) Kindle software for either Mac or Windows, and enjoy them on your laptop or other computer!]

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