Purgatory

“Line up on the black line for chow. Line up on the black line for chow.” We heard this three times a day. 7am, 12pm, and 5pm. Everyday. “Chow”. “Food”. Yeah right. The food that is served in the county jails is terrible. Less than a happy meals portion of food I wouldn’t feed to a dog. Mystery meat. “Mechanically separated chicken” three times a day. I would expect that the food served in Auschwitz was about the same quality as the bullshit we were eating all the time. Oh, you can order food from the commissary list, sure. If you are willing to spend 85 cents on a Ramen noodle. And everyone is. Everything in jail is the same all the time. Its like Groundhog day. Same food, same TV channel, Same schedule, Same lying ass dudes- tellin the same old bullshit lies day in and day out. Same spades games, poker, pushups, books, and walking laps in the day room. Sitting on steal benches, steal toilets, and iron bunks. Bars on the windows and see through shower curtains. Its like a dream world. All I could do was my best to pass time as quickly as possible, try and keep a level head, stay humble, keep my nose clean, and hope for the best, all while preparing for the worst. I guess its kinda like the discomfort in an emergency waiting room. Pacing, for bad news.

Shortly after my termination, I went into sort of a trance. A brokenness. I was numb and lost. This was the most alone I have ever felt. But I was an inmate worker(trustee) so that helped with the passing of time. I was strictly robotic though. No emotion. Just wake up, do job, eat lunch, work out, shower, nap, eat dinner, play poker, and repeat. EVERY SINGLE DAY. Nothing changed. it was always the same day over and over and over again.

I enrolled into any class or program i was able to. IOP, AA/NA meetings, church. Anything i could do to not only help myself on the inside, but to hopefully help my future and my case. I tried my best to make the most of this abundance of time on my hands. So, with being a trustee, and being in programs, all in all my time finally started to move along quite well. My fog started to lift, and I started to feel more and more like the real me. I was really paying attention in the classes, participating, and making a sincere effort towards change- for the first time in a long time. Believe it or not, but there were actually times when i felt grateful to be locked up. The quality of life i was experiencing was better than it was at many times in my life. This last sentence speaks volumes for the lifestyle of active addiction. To think that jail is better than my life has been at many different times. I was eating regularly, I was working, learning, working out, praying, and actually getting better. Even though the food here sucked, it was better than the donuts i pulled out of that dunkin donuts dumpster every morning, that’s for sure.

My attorney came to see me pretty regularly. “You’re fucked. You’re going to prison, and there is nothing I can do.” Was pretty much all he said. That was reassuring. But he has always been pretty honest with me, so at least he didn’t give me false hope. On one particular visit, he told me that we should be expecting new charges coming down, but it should only be misdemeanor theft- because of the nature of the crime, and the prosecutor who was handling it. So that was good and bad news. New charge, bad. Misdemeanor, good. I had enough felonies as it was.

My termination date was February 18th, 2015. With the routine schedule i had of work and programs my time was really swimming by, and next thing i knew it was approaching May. I believe it was the last two weeks of April. I had been in the “pod” for a while, and worked hard. The guards all knew me, and I had made a couple buddies in the pod. One of which had been in the pod for a little over a month longer than me. He had made buddies with the guy who had been in the pod the longest, and the “senior” guy had asked my buddy to join him on this painting crew. Of course the inmates dont call the shots, but the senior of the two was also the maintenance man, so he had a little pull with the Captain. So my friend was now on the painting crew. Anyways, my buddy had pulled me aside one day and asked me if i would be interested in joining the crew as well. “Theyre gonna feed ya good man, and it helps the time go by super fast.” “I think you should do it man.” he said. “Alright brother, Ill think about it.” was my answer. And i did not think about it again until one morning when my friend, “B” came up to me with the Captain. “So, Herb, can you paint?” B looked at me expectantly. “Yes sir.” “I’ll do it.” And just like that I was on the painting crew. At first, i thought it was dumb. I didnt see any benefit to doing this work- grinding nasty ass shower blocks, painting, and busting my ass for 10,12,and 16 hours a day, seven days a week- until they came in with 2 hot Domino’s pizzas and a cold two liter of coca cola. “Well this was a good decision.” We got to eat outside food like 3 days a week doing this gig, and the guards treated us a little better than the rest, respect wise. they didnt shake our tree so to speak as much as the others. Hard work demands respect, regardless of circumstances. And we had it. The time was really moving, but i remained in that pacing expectation, especially with the talk of the new charge coming.

My attorney kept visiting, like every two or three weeks;”You’re fucked, herb- you’re going to prison.” You’re fucked, you’re going to prison.” “Misdemeanor theft, herb.” “New charge.” “prison.” “fucked” “just waiting on the new charge.” “it shouldn’t be too bad, its just a misdemeanor theft charge i think.” “I can’t do anything til this new charge comes down.” “I dont know whats taking so long.” Day in and day out. Groundhog Day. Always the same. Grind showers, paint cells, breathe toxic fumes, paint, mechanically separated chicken, outside food, commissary, phone calls, work out, read books, programs, see through shower curtains, new charge, misdemeanor. ground hog day. ramen noodles. “youre fucked herb. you’re going to prison.” It all blended together.

One of my after work naps was interrupted by the loud speaker one day. “Stepherson, come down to the door.” I complied. The big red door popped open and the guard handed me a green piece of paper. It was NOT MISDEMEANOR THEFT. It was felony burglary, felony fraud, felony auto theft, and two misdemeanors.At the very bottom of the green sheet was the statement, “The state of Indiana also files the habitual offender enhancement”(which would add 7 years to my sentence). And my legs shook, and the world once again stopped spinning. This day was not the same as the rest. And none of the days ahead would be either…..

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