Stalactite: (Noun) a tapering structure hanging like an icicle from the roof of a cave, formed of calcium salts deposited by dripping water.
Recently there have been alot of headlines being made in the wake of COVID-19. I saw an article here locally about a parade of people rallying and driving around Westville Prison; because they were concerned about the well being of the inmates inside and the quality of care they would receive. Westville prison had a pretty bad outbreak of COVID-19 which left a lot of people pretty ill. And though many were concerned about the virus and it’s potential impact on those who may be exposed, that’s only the beginning of the absolute horrific things that these men and women are exposed to everyday. This idea just gave me the inspiration to bring it to light.
And I know, believe me, I know~ there’s gonna be a lot of people clamoring “do the crime do the time!” and “Put them under the jail!” and all that bullshit. And to those people I say, “Judge someone else when you’re perfect” and “Don’t judge others because they Sin differently than you do.” Also, yes, crime should be punished, but the time away from the free world, and their families and society IS the punishment. This goes far and beyond that. But I digress.
July 12, 2007. I believe it was a Thursday. Yes. Siri just confirmed it for me. It was also my birthday. Go figure. I stood in an orange jumpsuit shackled around my waist and wrists and with leg shackles on. The now retired judge who ironically would be the one to marry my Wife and I really laid into me. My grandmother crying in the onlooking crowd. My head down in shame. Fuck. “Mr. Stepherson, you are incredibly fortunate that you were able to receive ANY kind of pleas deal with the state and that I am feeling gracious this afternoon. I am going to accept the terms of this deal and sentence you to the Department of Corrections (Corrections~ what a joke). And if I ever see you again sir, I am going to Max you out. (She wasn’t lying, the next time I saw her, she did in fact sentence me to Life- of marriage with my beautiful wife Tiffany. LOL)
Once I was sentenced, all I could do was wait. “For the Bus” as they say in jail. I had absolutely no idea when it would come either. They keep it very quiet when it comes to that, for security reasons of course. But I didn’t have to wait long. It was about two weeks. My door popped at around 4:00 A.M and the guard chipperly told me “You get to go today!” Oh, goodie. It was about a 3 hour Drive to RDC in Plainfield, In. Where I would spending the next two weeks getting my blood drawn, my head shaved, my balls felt up, teeth examined, and qiestioned by all kinds of strangers for “placement” into the prison system. And it was hot as fuck in this place. It was Central Indiana, in late July. On the fourth floor of “The Range” with no A.C. The windows seemed to face the blazing hot summer sun all day every day and the place smelled like sweaty ball sacks, onions, and shit. And believe it or not, this wasn’t even why I’m writing this entry. God it makes me sick to think about what I saw next.
GSC 9 Dorm. General Service Complex, Dorm #9. I think that’s what GSC stands for. Westville Prison. Westville, Indiana. August. Hot as shit. This place was under neath 10 dorm I believe and had two great big long wings that extended in opposite directions. In the middle of the long hallways, which housed about 60 guys total I think, was the “Cage” where the Guard would stay inside and hand mail out and answer phones and etc. Also in between the long corridors were the bathrooms~ roughly 8 toilets; 4 facing one way and 4 facing- you guessed it- right fucking back at the other four. This had to be by some sick ass design. Waking up and having to shit, no dividers what so ever, damn near elbow to elbow with 3 other guys, while 4 other guys stared back at was uncomfortable to say the least. God the smell. Then, there was the shower, which was supposed to be set up like you see in the movies, or in a Gym Locker Room- shower heads all the way around to accommodate multiple men at the same time, and there were about ten shower heads, but only one worked and the water was ICE FUCKING COLD. One would be lucky to get a shower once a day, but most of the time it was every other day. And sometimes I was too grossed out to shower, so I would “Bird Bath it” in the sink and just hope I didn’t smell. I was grossed out because there was just way too much of men fucking each other in there. (Not that I believe being gay is wrong) but there was just something about Loud Gay Prison Sex late at night while I was trying to sleep that made me sick. And though I never actually Saw it (thank God) it was not a well hidden secret. Now I know why all the other men slept with head phones on. Ugh. And even still, I don’t think that was the worst of it all. In between the two long hallways, next to the cage, and next to the showers and bathroom area- was the Day Room. The Day room is where the guys spent most of our time. There were two T.V’s one of which was exclusively for sports. The other TV was for movies and regular programs, although for some reason They really seemed to like to watch fucking Soap Operas on this one. General Hospital and that kind of bullshit. So one might be lucky to catch a glimpse of something that actually interested them maybe twice a week. Maybe. This was also where we would play cards- spades and poker mostly. And where Guys would study their Bibles and for their G.E.D and the artists would draw and water color. So hopefully you can kind of see this wonderful world that is GSC 9 dorm- and yes that was sarcasm, it just came out so try to keep up.
And I remember vividly sitting in the day room chairs, still somewhat new to my new world, and just kind of scoping the scene out and getting my bearings about me. One day I was sitting there watching the Soap Operas kinda, I didn’t have headphones so I couldn’t hear the sound, but I was really just kind of staring off into the wild blue and day dreaming. When all of a sudden I heard a very loud crunch and a bunch of people yelling “OOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!” My head snappped toward the sound of the chaos when I saw a young guy absolutely stomping another guys guts out against the roll bars, after he had just knocked all of his front teeth out with a lock. That was the crunch I heard, his teeth breaking and coming out of his mouth. The guard didn’t even move with any sense of urgency, this was clearly a run of the mill normal for him. “Back to your rooms guys”, as he casually called for medics to come to our section of the world and get this battered young man into to the infirmary.
Whoa. That was fucking intense. I will just continue on throughout my stay with my head down, and will not borrow anything from anyone. Which was a very good Idea from what I’m told.
“If you see it, you’re a part of it.” So I did my best to see as little as possible. But I did in fact see something, that still makes my stomach turn and my heart hurt to this day.
One morning, I was sitting in my same “please don’t bother me or talk to me seat” that I always did. I was sitting a couple seats away from an older man who had clearly been locked up a while, He had very long hair. They shave your head at RDC and this guy’s hair was to the middle of his back at least. I was scanning around quietly and I noticed that the ceiling was crudely cut open. About 25 feet long, and about 10 feet wide in a jagged long rectangle. Pipes and all the innards of the building were exposed and the pipes had wrags and towels crudely wrapped around them. I asked the man with the long hair why they had towels and wrags wrapped around them. And he leaned over and told me its to stop the drips. He told me that maintenance wound come in “once in a while” and replace the towels and clean the area. But that must mean like once or twice a year. Over the next month or so, I watched that place in the ceiling like a time lapse photographer. The fluid behind the towels began to saturate. And the drips began. I made sure to stay away, but would watch as the drips fell down and would hit one man in the head, another on the shoulder. And another. And then men seemed to be so accustomed and used to this that they would casually just swat the area and wipe the drip away, like a gnat at a barbecue or something. a couple days later, more drips. and then more. And after about a week I started to notice a little tip starting to form where the heaviest of the saturation was forming. And then a little cone. The more it dripped, the heavier it got, and the larger the formation grew and sagged down. Eventually it became a cluster of about 1 foot long grayish/Brown/Amber colored nasty looking rods hanging down, and again, I asked the man with the long hair what in the world that was. And he casually leaned over and said, “Piss, Shit, cum, and Hair from upstairs in 10 dorm.” I think I turned green when I learned this. And all of this formations, conveniently dripped right over the tables where we would eat our commissary, and sit and write letters to our families. OMG. And every once in a while they would yell something that I cannot remember, but it would summon the “Dorm Bitch” and he would come with a mop on a long stick, everyone would clear the area and he would reach the stick up into the gaping hole in the ceiling and knock the formations down to the ground, then collect them in a bucket, and mop the area where they fell. And then life would return to “normal”.
So if you think that Covid-19 is something to be alarmed about in our prison system, maybe you need to think about what life before COVID was like on the inside.
We need prison reform.