There are reality shows about being in prison and even a couple about being in county jail. The outside world can get an idea of how the dorm-style rooms are set up, how the toilet is stainless steel and how everyone hangs around, watching TV. But, there are just so many things you don’t think about or imagine until you are here.
Different county jails have different rules in place, but as for the one I am in waiting to transfer to prison, here are a few things you might find surprising.
We have lights out at midnight and we are woken up at 4:00. Breakfast is at 4:30. Because of this, pretty quickly you get used to eating breakfast and going back to sleep again right afterward. Our beds are bunk style, lined up all around the room. Most everyone spends a lot of time sleeping, trying to pass the time.
We eat, sleep, shower, use the restroom, and stay in this one room all the time, except for our rec time once a week and our 20 minute visitation twice a week, if we are lucky enough to get a visitor. I usually have 1 visitor a week.
All we get to drink is milk, 3 times a day with our meals, and tap water that is room temperature. I like drinking water, as a general rule, when I was outside I drank it a lot. And, lucky for me, I like milk. But I would pay a lot for a Dr. Pepper right now. Just something that wasn’t room temperature would be great.
It’s very cold. They keep the AC cranked way down in county. This is supposedly because it is better for the typical over-nighter in the drunk tank, and also to keep fighting down and disease down. You get used to it after awhile. When I got here I had no underwear, t-shirt or shoes on, just shorts and flip flops. Those items aren’t issued so I had to spend the first 2 weeks with the same jumpsuit on and no underwear, t-shirt or socks. I was miserable, cold and I smelled bad. I had to wait for someone to deposit money into my commissary so I could buy myself underwear, t-shirts, socks, and deodorant. These items are not handed out freely to inmates.
It’s very boring. At this county jail we get 20 minutes of “rec” one day a week. That means we are brought to a room with an open roof, so we can see the sky, and we can walk around. There is no sort of equipment to exercise with or anything to do but at least you can see the sky and it’s a change of scenery from the room we live in 24/7. Personally, I am doing push-ups and sit-ups in my area to keep my strength up and try to stay healthy. The meals are OK but they are high fat, and boring, and not a lot of variety or green stuff. I can buy chips and candy in the commissary. We place our order then some days later get our stuff for the week. The prices for chips and candy are about what they would be outside.
We also are not allowed to own playing cards, chess pieces or other such things. There is a book cart of donated books that comes around and we can choose something off of it. Sometimes it is pretty slim pickings. I can have a bible and a rosary, which is given to me. I can also have up to 4 photos that are sent to me. They have to be real photos, not ones printed on the computer.
My family cannot send me books, or any printed items off of the computer or any printed documents. They can not order me books via amazon or other sites like this. Once I am in TDC I will be able to get books ordered for me, and I can receive printed information from the internet. I think this is going to be much better. I also think that chess games and card games are allowed in TCD, although of course, gambling isn’t. I haven’t heard music since coming here, and I think that in TDC I can get a radio through commissary. I think this is a privilege you have to earn over time, not right away. It would be awesome to hear the radio.
Most fights break out over the TV. We have one TV and most of the shows are crap, like soap operas and game shows, but tensions run high over the TV and what is on it. It’s very loud almost all the time. Everyone talks loud and the TV is loud. Every minute here is long, but somehow the days go by. I can’t believe I have already been here over 3 months. The time stretching ahead of me seems like an eternity but I know it will pass.