Monday, November 30, 2020



November 25, 2020


Good news -- they resumed restricted visits, three hours, Saturday or Sunday, 12 inmates, three visitors each max, per session. Visitors must sign up on the prison website in advance. Everyone wears a mask. Bad news — no contact visits — they've mounted clear plastic screens on each table — look don't touch. Last week a mother reached under the plastic to hold her son's hand. Visit terminated, visits suspended for six months, prisoner received a disciplinary report ( D. R.), and confinement. Don't touch!

Libby signed up for a Thanksgiving Day visit, and is on the standby list for other days. Everything is in limbo, however. Last week at least one prisoner at the work camp, next door, was placed in isolation, possibly infected, and this week three dorms have been placed in quarantine. Everyone knows the only sources of Covid-19 virus infections are prison employees. No way can they blame it on visitors. No certain news —no test results back yet, but if any other dorms are quarantined they could cancel visits. Even with the restrictions, having a few hours together, to look into each other's eyes, to hear our loved ones' voices, to SEE each other, live, after so many months apart, is crucial to our relationship's health.

Other good news — A federal judge ruled that ''every person'' is to receive a $1200 stimulus check, including two million prisoners nationwide, along with 80,000 Florida prisoners. Bad news — 80,000 Florida prisoners are eligible for $1200 stimulus checks. That's $96 million statewide, $1,440,000 at Tomoka C.I. How many millions will be spent on drugs?

The contraband tobacco and drug smuggling has been rampant inside prisons since the pandemic shut down visits last March and widespread quarantines went into effect. I've written about the ''K--2'' insect spray overdoses and deaths. It's everywhere, and they can't blame it on the visitors. How much of that stimulus money will go to unscrupulous employees profiteering?

Someone is getting rich. Cigarettes are sold for as much as $10 each. Do the math. Check the employee parking lot for new BMW's and Ford F-150's.

No telling how many overdose deaths will result.

Let me turn left for a few minutes and tell you about how this prison drug issue affects nonsmokers like me.

There are eight toilets in my dorm bathroom for about 70 men, all in a row against the wall, separated by three-foot high dividers. The first three commodes, by consensus, are reserved as urinals, leaving five toilets for their original purpose. There are no cameras in the bathroom, so that's where the smokers congregate, sitting on the toilets, ducking their heads, smoking tobacco or chemicals, passing around the joint, polluting my air.

I walked in the bathroom with my toilet tissue, only to see five stalls occupied by smokers, billows of toxic smoke rising and spreading throughout the bathroom. I stopped, very upset.

For those prisoners with no money to buy contraband, there is something called ''drip rip.'' Many employees dip snuff or chewing tobacco, Copenhagen, Red Man, and other brands. When they've sucked most of the juice and nicotine out of their ''chaw,'' they spit it out on the lawn. Sharp-eyed prison hustlers, lurking at a distance, mark the spot, and when the guard moves on, they scurry quickly to snatch the chewed wad. Sometimes fights result from disputed ownership of the droppings.

Returning to their dorms, the smokers separate and spread out the drip rip to dry, preparing it to smoke. Several of them may chip in to pay for smoking rights to the rolled, dried out snuff or chewing tobacco. They congregate in my bathroom and light up. It smells terrible.

Yesterday I'd had enough with the smokers. I began yelling, ''selling out,'' they call it in prison, ''I'm risking lung cancer just to use the bathroom. Get your sorry asses out of here. Now!''

I added more colorful language that I won't repeat here.

They took off. I waited several minutes for the exhaust fan to draw out the smoke. A sympathetic friend began waving a towel, helping.

''You put the fear of God in those dodos, Norman,'' he said.

''I'm trying to survive this life sentence,'' I said. ''Lung cancer is not part of my plan.'''

We laughed.

Notice — On the news they said the Florida prison population had decreased to 80,000 people in November, down from 95,000 a year ago, blaming Covid-19. The counties have curtailed trials and hearings, resulting in fewer people going to prison. Meanwhile, thousands of ''short timers'' had expired their sentences and been released. Almost none of the 4,000-plus parole-eligible ''old timers'' have been released, a class of prisoner virtually guaranteed not to reoffend and return to prison.


1 comment:

Debra mendez said...

You tell em Charlie !!!!!