Eight Days in Prison

By on Jan 13, 2019 in Essays

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Concert for Change poster, black and white


Friday, September 16, 5:45 p.m. Just finished eating, made beans and rice with mackerel in the cell. Couldn’t do the chow hall tonight; they had spaghetti. In the real world, spaghetti is one of my favorite meals. In prison, it’s a goddamn travesty unworthy of the name.

It’s now official: I’m no longer the clerk in the counselors’ offices. Also — and I totally didn’t see this one coming, no one did — I’m no longer a peer educator, either. The warden decided to fire all of us. They’re going to revamp the peer educator program to be run by only four educators; right now there are (or were) twelve of us. It sucks, but I can’t let myself get bent out of shape about it. This is a situation over which I have no control… and that, ladies and gentlemen, is my Anger Management training on display. The new peer educators — whoever they are — are going to get paid fifty bucks a month. We did it for free, some of those guys for more than ten years. Our warden, God bless him, he has his head shoulder-deep up his own ass. That’s not just my opinion; ask any staff member on the ground. They’ll agree wholeheartedly.

The funny thing is, I always used to complain about being a peer educator: “Damn! I can’t go to yard. I have to go teach this stupid orientation class!” But I liked it. A lot. It gave me a sense of purpose. Oh, well. At least I still have music. For now.

It’s raining. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, too. That sucks, because Sunday is supposed to be the softball championships. I’m not looking forward to going out there and slogging through the mud again, I can tell you that much. Sorry, but I don’t feel like doing this right now. I’m pretty bummed out.



It’s Saturday, September 17, 2016, 8:45 p.m. at night. Not much happened today. It was my day off. I went to Over 40 gym this morning and played basketball with the geezers. My team didn’t lose a single game, ran the court the whole time. Came back in and took a shower, which was a bit of an ordeal. Ever since they turned the water back on, the showers in Housing Unit Three aren’t working worth a damn. No pressure at all. I can piss harder than the water coming out of those showers. They’re supposed to come and readjust the pressure next week, but I’ll be living in Housing Unit Two by then.

Lunch was horrible. Cold cuts (and these cold cuts are actually marked on the box “FOR PRISONER CONSUMPTION ONLY”) and soup. Or should I say, “Soup?” It was vegetables left over from the past few weeks — peas, carrots, diced potatoes, corn, green beans — tossed in a kettle of water and boiled for a while. That’s their idea of “soup.” My homie hooked up cell-made pizza puffs this afternoon and gave me four. That way I didn’t have to go to the chow hall.

I went to night yard and played handball. Me and my partner ran the court the entire time. It wasn’t really fair for us to team up. We’re the best two players out there, but what the hell? After we beat a few teams, the other players waiting for next left the handball court to go do other stuff. They knew it was pointless. Resistance is futile!

Came in from night yard, took another piss-stream shower, and now I’m talking to you. I think this will be my last entry. “Seven Days in Prison,” is what I was thinking for the title, and this is the seventh day. I wish today had been more eventful, go out with a bang, so to speak, but life isn’t like that.

I’ve worked hard to create some semblance of a life for myself in here. Studied hard to become a peer educator, to earn my certification, learn how to speak effectively in front of groups. It’s all been stripped away, now. I’m not sure what kind of satisfaction I’ll get from my new job, passing out soap and bleach, but I can’t imagine it’ll be anything especially rewarding. I’m entering a new era of my life; a mundane one.

Like I said yesterday, at least I still have music. For now. The one thing you have to remember about being in prison is that anything you have can be taken away from you at any moment for no reason at all. Once you accept that, you can have peace. Blatant injustice occurs to prisoners in America everywhere on a daily basis. Laws are broken by guards and administrations, disciplinary charges are fabricated, assaults are carried out. It happens all the time. Inner turmoil comes when you rage against the things you’re powerless to change. This is grade-A peer-educator life skills wisdom you’re getting, here. You have to choose your battles. Does that mean you accept any wrongdoing that comes your way? No, I’m not saying that, either. I’m just saying, if they take your TV on a shakedown, ask yourself, “Is that worth fighting for?” And only you can answer that question.

That’s about it from me. I should get ready for bed. I’m supposed to umpire the softball championships tomorrow. Hopefully, it won’t be too muddy, but even if it is, I’ll deal with it. Adapt and overcome. Me and Blinky; we’re survivors.

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Nicholas Chittick is a writer and musician who lives in Danville, Illinois, where he now teaches music theory. He plans to relocate in 2027. Maybe sooner, with a little luck. You can find more of his work at PrisonsFoundation.org.