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Three steps towards Hell, part 2 by thadeusz
About one month later.
The guard had taken all my worldly possessions, such as watch or cellphone, when I had been arrested, so I did not know how long I waited. The only thing I knew is that I was hungry and thirsty. A long time afterwards, the same guard came back pushing another guy inside the van and a minicell. The guard then came and sat inside the van, with a weapon ready to kill the two nasty birds he had pushed inside should any of us try to move. The van started a few minutes later and took me to my fate !
The second guy who had been pushed inside the van guy looked older and claimed:
"Two years in that dreadful prison, and all that for stealing new shoes ? That’s unfair." He kept repeating this until the guard told him to keep quiet or be ready to be hit and get some years ADT (I understood that this meant Additional detention Time). The mere idea of seeing that poor guy getting some ADT made me shiver and forget during a few minutes that I was thirsty and hungry.
When we reached the county prison, after several controls of the police van, we were extracted from our tiny cells and told to move rapidly to a big hall while staying far from one another. A prison guard took our chains off while another, with stripes on his sleeves, shouted:
"Get immediately completely naked, a Doctor will examine each of you for the epidemic."
He then threw a white boxer to each of us. Mine was more or less the good size, in any case it's waist was adjustable with a tiny cord. The guard then added:
"Put this boxer immediately on and follow me."
I was furious, thirsty and hungry, but I had no choice: I did what I had been told to do and followed the guard, barefoot, to a door with the label "Isolation rooms". I was locked in the first one, the other guy in the third one. This room looked like my Police station cell, except that it was bigger, that there was a bassin to get water and to wash and a place which could be used as toilet. The main difference was nevertheless the entrance wall: it was a full metallic wall with only one door, also without grid but with a peephole: the prisoner, and that’s what I was, could not look outside but the guard could look inside and did so every 15 minutes or so.
At least now, I had a possibility to get some water and to drink ! Later, the guard opened a small wicket I had not noticed. This wicket was in the middle of the door of my cell. Through this opening, the guard passed me a metallic bowl with some food. He also explained that this would be my only food until the next morning.
I was left alone in this cell during three days, bored as everything and furious against the judge, the policemen, my friends and the whole world. At the end of the third day, a man dressed in white entered my cell. He said that he was a Doctor.
"I have observed you during these days through the peephole. You don’t seem to be sick. I will take your temperature, your tension, ask you to pee in a little bottle. I will also take a bit of your blood. As prisoner, you cannot object to that. Later, all these items will be examined in a lab. If you are normal, you will be sent to the first section as regular prisoner. There you will have something to do during your prison time."
I let him do what he wanted: I was in no position to object. So, I did what he had required for his ‘little bottle’. He also measured me and left. A few minutes later the guard came back with undies, white socks, white tennis shoes and a prison uniform consisting of blue denim pants and shirt. On the breast pocket was a white label with a number: "183.506". The same number was also on a white label attached to the hip pocket. There was no belt, only elastics at the waist. The guard told me:
"Give me back your provisional boxer and put this uniform on. Be quick ! You are as of this instant prisoner 183.506. It is better for you that we forget your name, Sonny, so you can again be proud of your real name as soon as you get out of here."
I put on my new clothes, which I did not mind: they were comfortable. But I hated to lose my name and hear that it would be replaced by a number. Anyway, I had no choice ! While I did this, the guard promptly left the cell and locked the door from the outside.
My life continued, isolated in this cell during two more days. It was nevertheless more comfortable since at least I was dressed now ! On the morning of the third day, the guard opened the door and told me to follow him. He led me to the office of the Director, whom I was told to address as "Captain".
I entered the Captain’s office and remained standing in the position which had been indicated by the guard. I learned later that it was called "position of attention" in the Army. But I was supposed to listen to the Captain.
"Prisoner 183.506, you are here for 9 months. Your crime is serious. Moreover, you are a recidivist. You will be educated here in order to behave better in the future." then he started shouting "UNDERSTOOD, YOU IDIOT ?"
"Are you going to obey the orders of the guards during these 9 months ?"
"You will first have an incoming and disinfecting shower : you really need it. YOU STINK."
"Captain, I was left in the Sheriff prison during 7 days and …"
The captain interrupted me and said briskly:
"DID I TELL YOU TO SPEAK ?"
"Then keep quiet and listen. In MY prison, you don’t speak unless spoken to. UNDERSTOOD ?"
"So you will have your shower, and another uniform : this one already stinks. But you will pay for it.
After you get your shower, go to the barber : such a long mane is not acceptable. Listen now to the prison rules."
The Captain started to explain all the rules I would have to respect, each time with the following comment "If not respected, cell time and possibly ADT."
Finally he told me: "To get the money necessary for your uniforms and upkeep, you will work in the kitchen. Morning before breakfast, lunch and dinner. And after meals, cleaning the pots and dishes. If you have some time left, you will be sent to the Library where there is also work to be done."
I was told that waking up would be, for me, at 05:00 in order to let me get ready and prepare the breakfast for the others. Bedtime would be the normal one at 22:30. I was to have to work the whole day long, without any break because of my kitchen duties. That would last, at least, during the first months. I hated this Captain, but I said nothing: I did not want to get some ADT.
I was taken by a guard I had not seen until now to the usual arrival place: everything had been changed because of the epidemic. There I was shown a big brown bag where, they said, were all my "before prison" belongings. Then I was told to undress completely and get a well needed shower. It was cold water, but it was most welcomed real soap ! After that, and still naked, they used a sort of garden hose to sprinkle me with disinfectant. The hose gave a lot of liquid with a brutal and powerful spray. This was very unwelcome and it lasted long enough for them to declare that I was now clean. I was then told to sit on the barber chair, still naked "to avoid spoiling my uniform". The barber told me that my mane was much too long for the prison, but that he would "save some hair and give me a nice haircut". He started butchering my mane with scissors. He pulled on my hair to have it easier for his cuts, but so doing he was constantly hurting me. I complained and he told me: "Do you want to go back to the reception cell ?" I chose to keep quiet. In fact, at first he gave the impression he was brutal because he really wanted to hurt the new prisoner, but later I realized that he was also a humane barber.
After this barber-butcher had finished butchering my mane, he started to use his clippers to make a relatively short haircut, but there was no way for me to check what he was doing since there was no mirror available. He pushed my head down so my chin rested on my chest and when he started to use his clippers, I could feel the cold of the metal on my skin. He was probably using a #1 guard. He started from my neck, went through my nape but he stopped about when he had reached the level of my ears. I could feel that he had created there an empty path. He repeated that same move on the left and on the right of the first path, then turned my head to the left and pushed it on my left shoulder to shave, but not completely, the lower right part of my poor head before doing the same with the lower left one.
When all that was done I heard him doing something with his clippers before starting to shave the top of my head. I could no longer feel the coldness of the blade, so I assumed that he was no longer shaving it with a minimal guard, but with a serious guard on the contrary.
When he considered that he was done, he added: "This way, your hair will not fall in the soup while you are in the kitchen." When I could finally pass my hands on my crow, it went through solid hair (there was no mirror inside the prison). I was relieved to discover that I still had some hair on the top of my hair, but none on the sides. It did not look like my great and glorious mane, but I thought that it looked like a nice crew cut. This was not wonderful, and I hated policemen and soldiers who have crew cuts, but it was better than nothing.
I received then a new uniform, with the same number: 183.506, number that I started to hate by that time ! I also received an army like blanket and I was told to get dressed immediately: "You are in the nude, you should be ashamed."
I was taken by another guard to my cell. It was a cell for two guys. There was a bed for each of us (a real bed, but without pillow), one to the left and one to the right of the narrow cell. The one to the left was clearly occupied, so I placed my blanket on the other one. There was a tiny window with solid bars at the rear end, but a real window with outside light, and one tiny shelf above each bed. There were pictures on the wall next to the other guy’s bed.
The guard told me that there is a roll call three times a day, immediately after every meal. Prisoners have to stand "in the position of attention" at the head of their bed and answer "HERE" when their number is called. This is one reason why I had to learn rapidly my number: 183.506. The guard also told me that everything I got at "receiving end" must be paid for: for the time being, I owed the prison 105 bucks. To have them, I had to work fast and well.
The guard left me in my cell with an open door, but told me to visit the kitchen as soon as possible. So I went, searched my way and found the cook. He explained me my future job. That’s when I realized that this job would be exhausting. But the cook (another guard with stripes on his sleeves) clearly told me that discussing about the job imposed by the Captain was "not a good idea". The cook kindly added that "this might suggest to the Captain that you need more time in prison to adjust to working hours". That decided me to behave as well as possible.
That same evening, I started working: placing meals on trays for the other prisoners to take them and eat them. Everything had to be ready in order to let the meal occur rapidly. I got the permission to eat my share inside the kitchen, when all the others had been served. Then it was rushing towards my cell, taking the correct position and waiting, in the position of attention, at the head of my head till the guard came to the door and shouted: "183.506" so that I could answer: "HERE GUARD".
The same guard told me then: "Your uniform is not perfectly clean. Give me 50 push-ups and get it clean and ironed for tomorrow morning".
Then I just had time to race again towards the kitchen, do the washing up and learn from the guard-cook that I could have an apron and wash my uniform immediately in the prison washing machine. Which I did ! I ironed it there and then !
Finally it was rushing again to be in my cell before "closing time", which was at 9 pm. I was there, again in the position of attention, when another prisoner entered the cell. He looked older than me, about 30, and took the same position. A guard arrived, checked if the other guy and "prisoner 183.506" were in, briskly closed the door and locked us in.
The other prisoner, my cell mate, told me that his name was Peter Falking. I did not know if that was true, but I had no good reason to distrust him. Anyway, the only certain thing was that his number was not too far from mine, meaning that he had been put in this prison not very long ago. In our cell Peter told me that he was married and had two kids. He had parked in front of an hydrant, act for which he got a ticket. He forgot to pay this ticket and had been arrested for that. A not very lenient judge gave him 6 months prison for that dreadful crime, which I considered a lot. So I was not certain if his story was true.
Peter also told me that he had already served 4 months and would soon be free again. In any case, he told me that he was working in the prison library, that it was a nice job, better than working with the cook. He also promised to recommend me for this job when he left the prison. So I was relatively confident and I told him that I had been arrested a first time for not respecting the curfew and what type of lenient sentence I got then, but that I was arrested a few days later for the same reason and thus sentenced to 9 months as recidivist. I was careful enough not to mention Mira nor my great love for her.
Peter was kind enough to get hold of a small mirror he had hidden in his stuff and said:
"Do you want to see how you look like now ?"
"Of course I do."
Peter gave me his small mirror and I could see the full extent of the horror. I still had some hair on my head, but the haircut was such that it looked like a cobweb broom. Especially with me being thin and wearing a uniform of the same color as the real broom handle my mother used … when we were still on speaking terms. Suddenly it was dark in our cell. "Lights out" explained Peter. I still had time to tell Peter:
"At least I could keep my moustache and my beard."
"Good for you, for the time being. You will lose them on the first occasion."
I did not want to believe him, turned on my bed and tried to sleep as well as possible during this first night as "regular prisoner"
The next day I started early to work and ran as much as permitted in this prison to be in time everywhere. Apparently I did well for breakfast, lunch and dinner (if I can use these noble names for what were in fact three simple "feeding" sessions). The cook started to have a better opinion of me and gave me the next morning some excellent pieces of advice, such as "Start to prepare whatever you can for the next meal while doing the washing up of the previous one: you will have it more easy. There is no need to run as you do" or "Don’t rush like this, you have not been sentenced to become a racing champion, simply a good worker." I got more organized and life started slowly to be more bearable for the poor prisoner I was. I thus managed to have an hour freetime every evening.