Friday, February 12, 2010

A Day In The Life

Working The AM Watch

This is my favorite shift. The following happens between 6am and 2 pm. It could be any various prisons. It could be any various weekday. Today I will be working in a housing unit. That is just one of the many places I could work.

I arrive at work to begin my shift. I like getting there early. It makes it easier to find a parking space. I go in and put all my stuff in a bin. A coworker runs my stuff through an x-ray. I walk through the metal detector. It beeps. I forgot my new boots set it off. I back up and take them off and send them through the x-ray. I walk through again in my socks. I retrieve my stuff and walk to a chair there in the entrance and put my boots back on. I put my watch on and my Carmex and wallet back in my pockets. I put on my belt. It is big and Velcro’s to my inner belt. It has a chain for my keys, a radio holder, a handcuff holder, and a packet of non-latex gloves. (I am allergic to latex.)

I retrieve my keys and radio and begin the hike out to the unit where I will be spending my day. I go inside and put my stuff down. I log in and begin my day.

I turn on the lights and begin unlocking cell doors. Inmates begin to trickle out. They warm up coffee and turn on the news (Good Day LA is a popular choice). Some get in the shower. Some are starting laundry. Soon they will go eat breakfast. Some leave now because they work in the kitchen.

After breakfast is over, it’s time for work. Those who work during the day go off to their jobs. Everyone is required to have a job if possible. Some stay in the unit. They work there as orderlies. Some stay because they work a PM or evening shift. Inmates do everything. They pick up trash or they are plumbers. Some prisons have factories (UNICOR) and they work there. Some of them go to school. There are many classes for GED or learning to speak English.

I walk around the unit. I search a few cells. I look for contraband. (That’s anything they aren’t supposed to have.) The inmates are cleaning, sleeping, or watching TV. Some play cards or other games. Some go to the recreation area to work out, play sports, do crafts or just socialize.

Lunch time arrives. They go off to lunch. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day. Fried chicken day and hamburger day are big. As the inmates return I pat search them. Soon I have a mighty pile of stolen food.

After lunch, the inmates return to work. There are more inside now. More are awake. They are microwaving food. There are a lot of ramen noodles in this place. I continue my patrol of the area. I stop for a snack. I check my email.

At the top of every hour they are free to leave and go to or from recreation or education. I monitor the door as they come and go.

At 2 pm another officer arrives to relieve me. I pass him my keys and radio. I gather my belongings and head back on the long walk back to the exit. It was a quiet day. No fights. I found no homemade weapons or alcohol. No drugs. Nothing crazy. If only every day could be like that.

Too bad it won’t be. After all, tomorrow is another day.


  1. Statistically, what are the quiet days vs. the non-quiet days there?

  2. Most are quiet really. But when stuff happens, it's what you remember.


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