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Three steps towards Hell, part 3 by thadeusz
10 days later, still in summer of 2020
Exactly 10 days after I entered this prison, a guard gave me a letter. It was a letter from my girlfriend. The letter contained a picture of Mira with a heart drawn on it, and a real letter in which she said that she was sorry because she felt responsible for my stay in prison: it was her idea to go out at night and also she had not been honest when she gave a false name to the policeman who first arrested us. She ended saying that she hoped to see me soon out of jail in order to renew the kiss we had exchanged that night, under the bridge.
Unluckily, according to prison rules, which my girlfriend ignored, her letter had been opened and read by the prison censor. I was told to abandon my work and run to the Captain’s office. When I was told to enter his office I immediately took the position of attention in front of this man’s desk: I had understood that he liked prisoners to show him respect, even if he did not deserve it. I just said:
"Prisoner 183.506 present and at your orders, Captain." A stupid sentence which had been suggested by the guard who had escorted me to this office.
"183.506, you received today a letter from a girl who we now completely identified. She has been arrested after confessing to two crimes: violation of the sanitary confinement and curfew laws, but also giving a false name to the police. She is still technically a minor, but a judge has decided to try her as an adult. You won’t get another letter from her before several months since she is now in prison. DISMISS."
"But Captain, she did not know her letter would be read."
"I said DISMISS. If you don’t obey my orders immediately, you will gain some ADT."
I turned around and left this brutal man’s office when I heard my guard telling me:
"You did not make a perfect ‘about face’. I will show you during your rest hour this evening."
I rushed to the kitchen and started my normal routine. In fact I was furious because Mira had been arrested despite my attempts to protect her by precisely NOT writing to her. When I came back to my room, I discovered that her letter and picture, which I had stupidly left on my little shelf, had been taken away by Peter. In the library he made many photocopies of it and sold them to some of the other prisoners. These guys started to mock my "deep love" and my "latin kisser attitude" while I was serving them. Peter also came and started to make a fool of me. I did not resist the temptation and I gave him a solid blow, followed by several others. Guards immediately arrived, got hold of me and pushed me in an isolation cell.
I stayed alone in that isolation cell during nearly two weeks, or what appeared to me to be two weeks: I had lost the count. I had eaten only dry bread and drank tap water. My uniform was no longer clean nor ironed, despite the efforts I did, such as sleeping in undies only but being forced by a guard to put on my uniform at wake up time every morning, doing nothing.
That day, I was brought back to the Captain’s office. The Captain looked furious, despite the fact that I was standing in front of him in the required position and that I looked at him as respectfully as possible. The Captain started shouting:
"183.506, you are a little scoundrel. You didn’t like a comment made by your roommate, so you punched him in the nose. And not one time, but several times. When the guards got hold of you, the poor guy was bleeding and complaining that you broke his nose. I gave you a good job as a starter, and I was planning to let you go and work in the Library after two months in the kitchen: you could have done well there wince you want to study further. But you are stupid and you cannot control your passions. So, I have no other option than to take you off this privileged first section and place you in the second section. You also get more time here to think about this bad behaviour, correct it and become a good citizen. I give you 3 months ADT."
"Captain, that means that my total detention time will be 12 months, exactly one year. Couldn’t you give me less time as ADT ?"
"Certainly not. Firstly because you are not here to discuss my decisions, and secondly because I don’t want you to get free using a trick or an appeal. I thus change my decision because you discussed it ! You thus get 6 months ADT, bringing your total detention time to 15 months in MY prison following MY disciplinary rules. You are now placed in the second section. Be careful, you are on a slippery road."
The Captain told then a guard to take me back to "receiving" in order to give me a new haircut, a "2nd section uniform" and instructions about the new disciplinary rules. I wanted to ask if I could call a lawyer, but the Captain roared:
"DISMISS IMMEDIATELY IF you don’t want more ADT."
I was frightened by the Captain’s comment. So I tried to make what I thought was a "perfect about face" and I left his office with my new tormentor: guard Wilkes.
Wilkes took me back to the reception room I had already visited without pleasure. He told me to get once again rid of ALL my clothes. I was thus in the nude when he sent me to the barber. This time, the barber’s attitude was even worse than the first time. The first time, he had pulled my long hair, which was painful enough. He then cut my mane with scissors before using his clippers. This time, he started immediately with clippers without guard and I could feel the metal on my skin. He started in the most efficient way: he pushed my head downwards and made a big pass from front to crown, he then pushed my head downwards until my chin hurt my chest. He went further with his clippers, from crown to nape and down to the neck. It was now hopeless: the first track had been made. He went on with another passage of the clippers, slightly on the left, then a third one slightly on the right. He then turned my head and pushed it brutally on my right shoulder, which hurt a lot and made me shout. The barber replied by pushing further while saying:
"That’s all you deserve, you little scoundrel"
I did not say anything else while he was reducing my haircut to zero, and he was good at that: pushing, turning, pulling my poor head.
Finally he stopped. I touched my head and noticed that some stubbles were left, but that was all. That’s when my torturer asked me:
"Do you like your new haircut ? For all practical purposes it is a nice and clean induction cut. It will stay like that until you get out of here."
That’s when I thought that my torture was over and I started to move, but the nasty barber told me:
"Don’t move, I must still take care of your beard and your mustache."
"Oh NO !" Were the only words I could utter, and I added "You can’t do THAT!".
But he could and he did. Apparently he did it with great pleasure. He first took scissors to cut the points of my mustache, points I had taken a long time to get. He then took clippers again, smaller ones but also without guard to destroy all that was left of my numerous efforts to have a manly mustache. After that came the beard. In fact I should say the nascent beard ! The barber did not use his clippers for that, he took a big and old fashioned razor. He also took some water and wet my beard, skipping the soap. He then started to shave me the old way. It hurt a lot and I started saying so, but the barber looked at me and his eyes were ready to destroy me. I decided in a second that I had already enough problems and that I should better keep quiet, even if it hurt dreadfully. In fact I must confess that I started crying. But that did not stop the barber, on the contrary: he poured water on my cheeks and started to shave them with his big razor which looked like an old fashioned sword. He then came back to my now defunct beard to shave my chin (without additional water), and then my throat. I was even afraid to move: he had told me "If you move, I might cut your throat and that would be your end."
When he decided that he was done, he simply told me:
"You must learn to do it yourself next week. This haircut and beard cleaning will be put on your bill. GO NOW, and quickly, you stupid boy."
Wilkes, the guard leading me, took me to the shower room I had already learned to know. Once again, I was told to get clean with cold water and soap. Once again Wilkes used the hose as a gardening tool to water me, except that he did not use water but disinfectant. It is only when he felt that I was clean enough that he led me to the clothing room.
I was no longer entitled to wear a comfortable blue uniform. I received there white undies and a red overall with only one breast pocket on the left side with my number already printed on it in black. My number was also printed in big numbers on my back. There was no belt, only a sort of elastic. Wilkes did not give me socks anymore, but only red plastic clogs. Altogether, this uniform was much less comfortable than the previous one and Wilkes summarized the situation as follows:
"Boy, you obviously don’t like this. But you are doomed to wear it until the end of your prison time, provided you don’t get more punished. I will lead you now to your room and there you will learn what your new job is. FOLLOW ME. March in step ! GO !"
We reached a room full of beds. In fact there were 20 beds, each provided with a red cover and no pillow. There were no cupboards and no shelves. All the beds were perpendicular to one of the walls: 10 to the left and 10 to the right, the space left in between these beds was barely sufficient to walk inside the room. There was a tiny window, with strong bars at the rear end and two weak bulbs on the ceiling. I was told to sit on the 4th bed to the left: it was one of the available ones, said Wilkes. He added that as of that moment my job was no longer assistant cook, but road signs maker.
In fact, there were 17 prisoners, me included, in this room. All had been sentenced to more than one year, most were recidivists like me (that label was sticking on me now). Many of the guys had received ADT from the Captain (like me) but none got it so rapidly ! The big guy who was sentenced the same day as I, was also in this room with his two years prison time ahead of him.
Every morning a bugle woke us up very early by . We had to stand up immediately and go, in a row, marching in step, to the courtyard provided for us. The guards called all our numbers, we had no names anymore. There we could find buckets of cold water to refresh ourselves, but without removing our clothes. We then got something to eat and walked, again in a row and marching in step. We were finally herded in a relatively big workshop where we had to make road signs the whole day long. It was not easy, since we had to find the metal boards to use, to cut them and then to paint them according to very specific rules.
At some moment, the bugle was heard again : it was time to go back to the big courtyard where we got something to eat as lunch. If it rained we had to take shelter under a porch where normally we were not allowed to go. We nevertheless got wet and cold.
The same routine occupied our afternoons until rather late: many road signs had to be made for the safety of the public ! After that it was bugle-soup-going to the room-lights out.
And so on the next morning. I wanted to read something, but books were not authorized. I asked if I could phone or right a letter. The answer was that I could do it once a week, provided I had enough money to pay for the phone call and the stamps. At that time, I had nothing.
Every week, like the others, I had to make a short trip to the barber who took care to keep my hair at induction level and my beard to a zero level. It was then cold shower time, hose spraying and fresh clothes.
After several long and boring days, the Captain called each of us, one after the other, in order to tell us us that it was the end of the month and that we could now know how much money we had earned: that money would remain in the prison bank, but we could ask for it to phone, to send a letter or to buy some expensive prison goodies.
We waited in the position of attention and, when our number was called, we entered the Captain’s office, took the position of attention lowering our head in sign of obedience (advice from guard Wilkes). The Captain told each of us, in private, how much he had earned that month and how much money was available for him in the prison bank. When my turn came the Captain told me while I stood in front of him in the position of attention:
"You did not earn a lot because you did not work a lot: only 48 bucks as cooking assistant and 18 bucks for your work on road signs. This makes only 66 bucks for this period."
"But Captain, there must be a mistake. I worked hard as cooking assistant and then also as road signs maker. I worked a lot Captain, there must be a mistake."
"183.506, there is no mistake. You did not work long nor well in the kitchen. You were still in your learning phase. As road signs maker, you worked longer and you worked well. But that work is not paid very much. So altogether, you only earn 66 bucks. Moreover you owe this prison lots of money for your two sets of uniform and your first haircut and later for your head and beard shavings. So in fact, you owe this prison 143 bucks."
"Captain, can I borrow more money from the prison bank to phone my friends and to write a letter to my girlfriend if she is not in prison ?"
"183.506, first of all your girlfriend has been sentenced for her two crimes. She got six months. She should have been sent to prison, but the judge transformed her sentence into a six month suspended sentence on the basis that she will no longer be in contact with you. So it would be bad, really bad if you tried to contact her. Secondly, you cannot borrow money from our bank. Work more, repay your debts and you will be able to have more comfort."
That’s when I exploded once again:
"But captain, this prison is paying us less than the official minimum wage."
"And then, 183.506. Does it really matter ?"
"Of course it does matter, Captain. As of this instant I refuse to keep working for this misery. I will tell my comrades to do exactly as I am doing, we go on strike !"
The captain did not say one more word but made a sign to two guards who got hold of me and brought me back, by force, to one of these isolation cells I started to know too well formy health.