Thursday, July 11, 2014
I have hit an inner prison milestone. I am officially eligible for placement in a minimum security prison unit. This is actually a pretty big deal in the cosmic scene of things. I never would have thought that I would go to a minimum yard because I began this odyssey in a Super Maximum prison known as SMU (Special Management Unit) Inmates that begin there, rarely, if ever, make it to a medium security facility, let alone a minimum.
Prison security levels are somewhat complex – so I will try to break them down for you. Hopefully you will have a better understanding of how inmates are housed in a correctional system.
1. SUPER MAXIMUM UNIT
Inmates live alone in a 6x10’ cell for a minimum of 2 years upon entering prison. It’s underground so there is no daylight, no recreation, no contact with other human beings and the lights stay on 24/7. Inmates are permitted to have a television, hygiene products and stationary only. Inmates are allowed (1) 5 minute long phone call per week and (1) 2 hour visit behind glass on weekends however the inmate is chained to the phone receiver and the table behind the glass. Meals consist of a sack breakfast/lunch and a hot dinner.
This population consists of: murders, rapists, lifers, death row and inmates deemed as ‘STG’ (Security Threat Group)
I served 2 years and 19 days in SMU
2. MAXIMUM SECURITY FACILITY
Inmates are in a cell with another inmate of the same race or gang affiliation (when necessary) They are allowed 3 hours of recreation every other day along with a shower. If behavior warrants, the inmate can have a job and receive contact visits on the weekends. Inmates can purchase food at the commissary and receive packages from family and friends monthly.
This population consists of: Inmates who have already served 2 years in Super Maximum, and those who have committed armed robbery, kidnapping, aggravated assault and manslaughter.
I served 3 years, 4 months and 21 days in Maximum Security (The “Walls”)
3. MEDIUM SECURITY FACILITY
Inmates live in large, open dormitories or Quonset huts. They are assigned a 6’x8’ cubicle space which has a bed, a locker and a desk. Inmates can shower, go outside and use the phone whenever they want between 0500 and 2000 hours, Inmates can shop at the commissary weekly and are allowed better paying jobs with greater responsibility.
This population consists of: Inmates who have already served in Maximum Security or for those who have committed hit & run, burglary, simple assault, weapon or drug violations.
I served 7 years and 2 days at the following Medium Security facilties: Barchey, Santa Rita, East Unit, Stiner, and now, Cheyenne at Yuma
4. MINIMUM SECURITY FACILITY
Everything is the same as a Medium Security facility with the addition of minimum wage paying jobs off site the prison complex, more freedom of movement and less prison politics
This population consists of: light drug charges (marijuana, prescriptions and paraphernalia), forgery, DUI, & resisting arrest.
The demeanor of Minimum Security is said to be unlike anything else I have experienced and it is something I will have to adapt to.
The other night I was speaking with Joey and sensing my nervousness over this change, he turned the situation around for me. He was able to get me to view this Minimum Security yard as a good thing. It is simply another step toward letting go of so many of the traits that I have adopted in here that I will absolutely not need outside of prison. As I have said before, “change” is a good thing and I will embrace it because I have earned this privilege. I doesn’t mean that I have any less anxiety about it.
Minimum….Here I come….