Saturday, June 13, 2020


Saturday, June 13, 2020, 10:15 a.m., Tomoka C. I., Daytona Beach, FL

It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, as Garrison Keillor used to say on ''Prairie Home Companion,'' many years ago. That's both true and false for the inhabitants of Tomoka C. I. this past week.

I spent much of two uncomfortable days this week in the medical building lobby sitting on a hard backless bench waiting for an electrocardiogram. For several weeks I've had periodic mild chest pains, and since I had to go to medical anyway, to replace prescriptions lost during last week's dorm moves, I decided to relieve my mind and ask for a long-overdue EKG. 

The first day the nurse told me to wait, someone had slashed their arms with a sharp object and the doctor and other nurses were occupied with sewing up the wounds. She said the chest pains were most likely anxiety, anyway. Some years ago, a friend went to medical at another prison, complained of chest pains, the nurse said it was indigestion, gave him antacid, and sent him on his way. He collapsed on the outside sidewalk, dead of a heart attack.

I don't care much for off-the-cuff diagnoses any more.

It got late, the sewing-up took longer, so they told me to come back the next day. After more hours of waiting, the next day I finally got hooked to the machine and tested. Results next week.

The coronavirus appears to have ebbed, with most everyone off quarantine status, with the exception of a few prisoners still under observation in an E-Dorm isolation wing. Thursday during their weekly ''inspection,'' I asked an official passing through when our family visits would resume. ''I don't know. They're talking about it. Maybe soon,'' he said. We worry that an upsurge in new virus infections statewide will delay Visitation's return. Everyone I know who get regular visits is demoralized by the enforced family separation.

The unfortunate men in dorm F-1 who were shipped to Columbia C. I. without their belongings are supposed to return any day now.

No educational, vocational, or wellness classes have returned, and the chapel will remain closed until September, they say. The library is also closed, so access to reading material is limited. Book swaps are common. They're still maintaining separation of dorms, and one dorm is escorted to ''chow'' as another returns from food service. It's funny, one long line of prisoners heading north while another line passes to the south, everyone's faces half-covered by masks, looking like hundreds of bank robbers.

Numerous men greet me in passing with repeated, ''Hi, Mr. Norman,'' Hey, Charlie,'' ''Mr. Norman, how ya doing,'' and other brief greetings. I don't recognize many of them, but I return their hellos.

One fellow prisoner behind me in this long single-file line remarked, ''Man, you must know everybody on the compound.''

''Not really,'' I said, ''but more know me than I know all of them.'' Longevity counts.

It was a mistake moving back to dorm K-2. In the time during my stay in quarantine, they moved so many prisoners out and in that the entire ''personality'' of K-2 was changed for the worse. Before, the dorm housed medium and minimum security prisoners, mostly older, quiet, more mature men who wanted to do their time in peace and quiet. But now, they've turned it into an overflow dorm for troublemakers released from confinement, mostly younger fools smoking dope, yelling and screaming day and night, disrespecting the female officers, hollering to buddies walking down the road, bringing ''heat'' from officers who threaten to ransack the entire dorm in retaliation for their misbehavior. These are the ones who give all prisoners a bad name.

My mother is still in the Hawthorne Rehab Center in Brandon. She'd hoped to be released by now, but they want to keep her longer, until June 25, for more rehab. She's in good spirits, but wants to go home.

Not much more to tell you for now. It is count time again, and I must go.

All the best, and God bless you and yours.


Prison Pandemic News from USA Today:

Houston, Texas--- The Texas Dept. of State attributes the state's spike in coronavirus cases to increased testing in prisons. According to the Texas Tribune, the number of prisoners reported to be infected with the virus jumped from about 2,500 to 6,900 in the two weeks since prisons started reporting test results May 26. Overall cases jumped by 34% from May 25 to June 7, and nearly a quarter of the increase came from 10 counties with prisons and meat packing plants.

Portland, Oregon---State public health officials said an outbreak at a North Bend prison has been resolved. The minimum-security prison at one point had 25 inmates and three infected employees, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

Phoenix, Arizona---The number of Maricopa County jail inmates who have tested positive for the new coronavirus has increased sharply over the last five days, leading officials to consider mass testing at county correctional facilities.

Montgomery, Alabama---Multiple men incarcerated at the Federal Prison Camp have signed their names to a lawsuit against the Bureau of Prisons, asking a federal judge to order officials to begin processing inmates to home confinement, compassionate release or to another prison to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

Topeka, Kansas---The Lansing Correctional Facility is the largest single source of Kansas coronavirus cases, followed by Tyson Foods meat-packing plant near Garden City, a public health document showed.

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