Jim, 73

Meet Jim…

I was saved by the bell. The chow hall bell, signaling that dinner was ready. As soon as our door opened, he bull rushed toward his former cellie. He angrily tried to pick a fight with him.

Jim, 73
Incarcerated: 21 years

I held a position on the trash pick-up crew. I was relatively happy and making good progress through therapy and medication in moderating my bi-polar condition. I was sitting at a table in the visiting room with my aunt when I felt a tap on my shoulder and heard a voice say, “You have to move to Three Yard.” Three Yard is a b**ch. Guys can be brutal. Approximately 850 prisoners cram into a tiny yard for air. It’s no wonder that officers and prisoners were persistently grouchy. I asked, “Is there a library?” “Not an official library.” “Well, is there an unofficial place to borrow books?” Mr. Mahon, in the library, seemed to be a kind teacher, rare in my prison experience. I heard him say, “I’m trying to use my limited supply of books to put together a real library. You want a book, go to the back room. No pay, of course.” I went into the “back room” where I saw about 100 books in boxes. I also found an older prisoner who asked, “You looking for a job?” That’s how I got my strictly unofficial job at the temporary unofficial library. One advantage of this job was to have priority on books received. The cellies were generally much younger than me. A few of them were polite, but most were rude. I can’t remember any of them except for one – a 30-something thug from the San Joaquin Valley. We didn’t like each other from the outset, and we only lasted three weeks. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was when I caught him making prison wine called Pruno, hidden under my bunk. “You can’t do that in here. If you get caught, I’ll get in trouble too!” “F*** you, asshole. I’ll do what I want.” By that time, I had enough of Three Yard. I hadn’t met with my mental health clinician in over a year. When I asked to meet with him, amazingly my request was granted. He was a good guy. He promptly greased the admin wheels so I could return to One Yard. I was installed on the top bunk with a young, bald tattooed brother who refused to allow me to put my property under the lower bunk. I had to sleep with my boxes, while he studied German out loud all night…with the light on. Oh well. Here we go again.

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