A Geek in Prison - A Life Series by Charlie Shrem (Part 3 - I'm Actually in Prison)

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This is Part 3 in a series about my life as a Geek in Prison. Click my name to follow me and check out my blog for the Preamble and Parts 1-2. All names are changed to protect inmates privacy.

March 31st, 2015

Woke up around 7am, barely slept through the night. The total shock of yesterday is starting to kick in. Omar said it would be super hard to sleep and he was right, but the earplugs helped a little. I took a shower this morning, there wasn’t much of a wait. Using the showers are like trying to land an airplane on a runway with no traffic control. All the planes that are waiting to land and take off are speaking to each other directly.

To prevent yourself from crossing someone else you wait outside and yell:

Showers

Eveyone in the showers will reply

1 on the right, 2 on the left

Meaning there is 1 person on the right and 2 on the left, so there is a right shower empty. Then I say.

Coming in on the right

I go into the changing room area assigned to my shower and say

In on the right

When I’m ready to cross into the shower I say

Crossing on the right

And I let them know when I’m in the shower. When I’m finished, I do the same but backward.

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I was issued my khakis today and I have to wear them from 7am until 4pm. After 4pm I can dress down into shorts or sweatpants. They are olive green and not the most comfortable things in the world.

It feels weird not using a cell phone and technology. Everything here is word of mouth, there is no google and information is trickled in. I think the hardest part is learning how to use my own resources to grow and not the internet. I need to learn how to read bullshit and filter through wrong information to find the right answers. Your word is your life here, we all live together so if you don’t follow through, no one else will trust you. Information travels fast here. The slang for when you hear about a rumor or unverified information is “I heard it on Inmate.com”

On the outside, I had this Bitcoin celebrity status. In here, no one knows me nor do they care about me. I’m just inmate 92164-054. As I walk through the range, using the rest room, making coffee I notice some hateful stares. People have their every day routine. Some for 1, 5, even 10 years and here I am going about it like I own the place. I need to change that attitude and humble myself. How do I stay out of someones way but at the same time still be assertive? Everything is such a fine line here. If you back down you are a wuss, and if you stand up for yourself you go to the hole. I have a lot to learn.

After my shower I spoke to Courtney and had a 12 minute call. This used up my 10 minute allocation for the day and 2 minutes of tomorrow but it was my first day and really needed to talk to her.

She found the visitor form on the BOP website and is printing and mailing it today. The visits are once a month Saturday and Sunday from 8am - 3pm. You get 1 weekend a month which is based on the last digit of your register number and last name. My number ends in 4 which is an even number and my last name ends in an S so my weekend is coming up this week! If I can’t get her approved in a few days, I won’t be able to see her for 5 weeks. On the outside I’m so used to things being done within minutes of when I want it to be done, but in prison I have to learn to get used to things taking days sometimes weeks. I can’t always get what I want when I want it, this is a thinking error as I would later learn.

Here in Lewisburg, I learnt that there is a program called RDAP. The Residential Drug Abuse Program. RDAP is the prisons most intensive treatment program. Cognitive Behavior Therapy is used in a modified therapeutic community model where inmates experience living in a pro-social community. Inmates live in a unit separate from general population; they participate in half-day programming and half-day work, school, or vocational activities for 9 months. In reality, RDAP is 24 hours a day because your life in prison revolves around it. If you graduate, you can get time taken off your sentence from 6 months to 1 year. The program focuses less on drugs, more on dissecting your life and rational thinking. Why do you feel the way you do and how does that effect your actions and reactions. I may try and get into the program. I would get to go home earlier and it would help in my quest bettering myself.

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Skipped lunch today because the line was too long. Lunch is served around 1030am and follows a 5 week menu. Wednesdays are burgers, and Thursday is chicken so those are the best days. Today they were serving chicken patties, although I’m not sure if there is chicken in it. I think I’m going to be a vegetarian in here. You wait on line, scan your ID card and get a tray which is what you may have used in school. Usually for lunch is a protein, a carb, vegetable and fruit. Today was chicken patty on a bun with baked potatoes and green beans. For dessert an apple or bag of chips. To be honest, some of the food isn’t bad but I guess its because it was all I was used to. Unfortunately, the seating choices are as diverse as I’m used to being from Brooklyn.

I will likely make some soup in a few minutes of ramen and mackerel with some adobo, jalapeños and garlic powder. I miss Courtney a lot but I need to focus on getting out. We speak in the morning and we say good night to each other on the phone. During the day we email as well.

To use the email, you log into the prison intranet on one of the computers. You can add someone to your contract list and it emails the contact asking if they want to communicate with you. If they accept, you can start sending emails. It costs $0.05 a minute and there is a 90 minute delay from when you send an email to the person receiving it and vice versa. When you log out you have to wait 30 minutes before logging back in.

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My locker is more like a pantry. I have candy, tuna fish, chicken breast, various drinks, ramen, soups, soy and hot sauce. Everything is either shelf stable or in powdered form. I’ve seen some of the guys cooking up some crazy things, but right now ramen is as far as my culinary skills go.

An hour ago I watched CNN with Shimi. Shimi is the personal injury lawyer I mentioned earlier and he lives in Range 1, downstairs from me. He has been helping me out alot and I’ve been shadowing him. Tonight he said after dinner I can go play spades with him and some other guys.

Everyone in my Unit is pretty cool for like the first five minutes. I’v noticed after that, either they become hostile towards me or ignore me all together. Overall its like living in a small town with minimal outside communication. In the bunk next to me is Tommy, a former judge from the midwest. I look forward to getting to know him.

I used the bathroom earlier and a few minutes after I got out noticed a lot of hostile stares from guys in the range. I couldn’t figure out why. When Omar got back from work I asked him and he spoke to some of the guys. He came back and told me that I smelled up the whole range because I did not courtesy flush. Courtesy flush? Yes, while you are sitting on th toilet you have to flush every minute or so because the water starts smelling up the place. He explained to them it was my first day but it was a bad first impression.

At 7pm after dinner and cards I’m going to try out Yoga. I’ve never done it before, but I’m told its good to have in your routine and helps with stress and anxiety.

……

Dinner was pepper steak with broccoli and soda! Yoga was intense and the classes are offered 3 days a week. It takes you out of mental prison for an hour so its worth it.

I’m wiped out so I’m going to call Courtney and try to sleep.

I can do this. I think.

-Charlie

$ 3919.847 SBD
569
70