Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Behind Bars

0630 - the time the lights shatters the blanket of darkness that fills my cell. Having led a life comparable to that of a nocturnal creature before I was jailed, it took me awhile before I got used to falling asleep at 2200 and waking up at 0600 in the morning. Monotony is the key word to describe my stint in prison; everything's a routine. You wake up at 0600, shower and store enough water before the supply is cut off at 0630, have breakfast, and then you basically rot until the next meal and the meal after that. And when all is done and said, you go back to sleep - the only form of escape from the harsh reality that bites you each day. This routine plagues every prison, though there are slight variations to certain things such as muster checks and all. I shall not elaborate into detail about the specific routines of the 3 different prisons I was in because that's gonna take a fair bit of explaining. Pardon my laziness.

Monotony - what a far cry from the promiscuise lifestyle of all night private drug parties I once enjoyed! I'd dare say that the best way to torture is to deliver it into the realms of the mind. That's why they don't beat you unless you get violent with them; they just starve you from having what you have always taken for granted - freedom.

Ah yes, freedom - Maybe I've tipped the scale and exaggerated it a little too much with regards to how much freedom I had. There IS a certain allowance of freedom in the joint, but you be the judge and decide if I am right to say that it is as good as nothing:

  • For the 1st 2 months of my incarceration, I was kept under solitary confinement. That meant that I had to spend 24 hours in my cell everyday unless I was scheduled for fornightly visits which lasts for 30 minutes or so. The months that followed got slightly better because I was allowed out to the yard for an hour. But even so, there wasn't much to do there except bathe in the sunlight and watch topless men running around.
  • The Superintendent of the Prison dictates almost every aspect of your life in there, except which hand you use to clean your bum and how much soap you use to bathe. As I've said earlier, even the water supply is controlled. As such, we're forced to be innovative when our stored water runs out. What we'd do is to smuggle a plastic bag, fill it with whatever water we have left, tie a rubber band around it, pump the water in the toilet bowl down into the pipes, use the bag as a stopper, press the flush and KA-CHING! We have a mini-bathtub. Yes, I bathed using water from the toilet bowl. Of course, I made sure it was clean before using it, but even if it wasn't, I don't think I have much of a choice right? Beggars can't be choosers.
  • Letters that go in and out of prison are screened before they are posted. Even your books are. Novels and magazines with too much violence or explicit content are either rejected on the whole or censored. How? They just rip the pages out or blot out the lines. These are just one of the many policies that govern the admission of items from the general public.

So what's your call?

Privacy is another troubling issue behind bars. Strip searches are nothing out of the ordinary there. We even have to open our a-holes and have a torch shone up in it to make sure there isn't any contraband items hidden there. Disgusting? Naw, don't be surprise to hear the numerous stories of people doing exactly just that. Imagine hiding a cigarette up there - it'll be like brown, soggy and erm, smelly. You must be wondering how we do our business there eh? Well, in front of many others, that's how! Yuh, fellow inmates not only get to smell your deposits, they also get to see all of it firsthand. The only way one could ever have a little privacy is to mimic what a peacock does: he just takes his towel, wraps it over his head and takes his dump. I recall this poor guy who couldn't shit with so many eyes trained on him, he had to wake up in the middle of the night to do it. No prizes for guessing, he got a dressing down the next morning. Oh, by the way, one thing I picked up from prison is this fact - if you don't shit for consecutive days, your crap will stink like mad. Don't believe me? Try it! That's why there is this unspoken rule that you should clear your stock everyday. See, in prison, your business is essentially everyone else's business. What freedom OR privacy is there?

Apart from all that I've mentioned so far, another thing of great concern to an inmate is his social life in there. Jail's definitely not a place to diss people off because there isn't any where for you to run to if you do. Got a problem? Deal with it! Either you back off or you go crying to the wardens and get labelled as a sissy. My best solution for it? Avoid the crossfires, take no sides, talk less, be diplomatic, know that violence is but a vicious cycle that solves nothing (talking it out is better) and think before you shoot your trap. That, however, isn't fool-proof, but it is the safest bet.

Well, I survived in the hole and surprisingly, my life took a 180 degrees turn for the better in the days after. The sinister walls that seperated me from the world outside did me a lot of good because all I could do within them was to reflect upon my life. I survived the ordeal not because I was street-smart or gangly. I survived it because of a Greater Someone. Chill, I won't pull some religious thingy on you, but I still believe it with all my heart that I couldn't have done it alone. What on earth am I talking about? Go figure.

I have a lot more to talk about my experience there, but words are simply not enough to describe it all. As you can see, I've already written such a huge chunk of words and I've barely scratched the surface. Maybe next time I will explore a different aspect of my stay there and if you have questions, please ask and I'd try my best to answer it.

PS: Dee, as requested - my experience in prison. And also, wanted to say that I made a typo on my tagboard. Meant to say "idea" but ended up spelling it as "idiot". Sorry!

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