Everyone also gets two plastic open-top foot lockers for storing stuff under the bunk. We are allowed to purchase personal shoes and some clothing items on commissary (sweat shirts/pants, socks, underwear, sneakers, etc.), but I prefer to settle mostly for just the state issue items when I can (e.g. I've never bought shoes here and just wear the cheep deck shoes I was issued when I first arrived anytime I need to leave the cell).
We normally get "rec" five days a week, and can choose to go "outside" (to one of the walled-in monkey cages that barely let you see the sky directly above) or one of the inside "rec rooms" where they have some treadmills and exercise bikes that some prisoners here use (like caged rats as far as I'm concerned). I rarely go to "rec" (I've only been "outside" maybe three times in the last ten years), and when I do it is only to one of the "rec" rooms with a computer so I can print mailing labels (which are required on all outgoing mail) and re-validate my MP3-player (which must be connected to the prison computer system, "TRLINCS", every fourteen days or it stops working).
Mostly I'm quite content to exist in my cell, receiving meals three times a day passed in through a slot in the door, and mail (five days a week). I avoid talking to other prisoners since they always seem too focused, even obsessed at times, with their cases (legal matters) and whatever is on T.V. (which is mostly a bunch of gobbledygook as far as I'm concerned).
I have been spending a few hours each week in the "leisure room" lately with my "rec partner", "Steve", who is an older gentleman whom I am allowed to be in the same room with (which is considered a "privilege" that must be earned with "good behavior", etc.). We play chess and talk about things other than our cases or what's on T.V. Like me, Steve is more interested in the philosophical aspects of our existence, and though we don't always agree (philosophically) we do get along okay conversationally. But, I don't trust him with private or personal matters, or anyone else in this place for that matter. (Trust is a fool's gambit in any prison.)
So, other than the polite conversations I have over a friendly game of chess with my "rec partner" I really don't socialize here at all. The other prisoners treat me respectfully in matters that require interacting with them (such as asking to use the phone next, or trading store items for stamps, etc.). In fact, the only harassment I have experienced in all the years I've been here has come from a handful of guards who don't seem to realize they aren't in high school anymore, so they bully me because of my crimes the same way I'm sure they bullied "weaklings" when they were in school. Fortunately there are no guards here now (that I'm aware of) who are so immature (though there are a few who seem to harbor some resentment toward me, probably because they were "molested" as a child, or have some other dark secrets of their own that my crimes remind them of).
I usually sleep most of the day and stay awake at night while it is quiet. After so many years in prison (literally most of my life) I've learned to sleep through almost anything, and wake up automatically for things like meal or mail (unless I have earplugs in. But, I only wear earplugs when the noise is exceptionally bad, which is actually more often than I like lately since I've moved to this "phase II" range (with "leisure room" privileges for good behavior) where there are several "lonely" prisoners who like to yell conversations from one end of the range to the other, which I find quite annoying, but tolerate because they are such pathetically lonely souls (i.e. I feel sorry for them).
When I'm awake I like to read (non-fiction books or pages of material from the Internet that my people on the streets find and print for me), write (letters, and blog stuff, like this), listen to music (I have over 500 personally selected songs on my MP3-player that I listen to nearly every day to relax, or sometimes just to block out the loud conversations from outside of the cell; everything from 70's rock, 80's pop, contemporary pop, and classical, with several "meditation" tracks as well), or watch a little T.V. (actually, probably more T.V. than I like to admit, but most of the time the T.V. in my cell, which I keep tied to the side of the locker facing my bunk so it doesn't take up space, is turned off). I enjoy thought provoking dramas, like "Breaking Bad" and "Killing Eve", or a good documentary on PBS or History Channel; but I honestly can't stand better than 99% of what they call "entertainment" these days, and probably despise as much as 80% of it, especially all the "pig fiction" and "faux reality" crap (my terms for things like "Law and Order", "Criminal Minds", and "The Kardashians", which makes me want to "gag" intellectually if I ever try to watch it). Even the so-called "news" ends up disgusting me most of the time. It's not even news anymore, it's all commentary and little else, no real information at all! Which makes me miss the Internet even more, where I can set up a filter directly on the A.P. wire and get my "news" directly, then investigate anything I find interesting for myself.
I usually masturbate at least once a day, and frequently two or even three times a day still, which I am very happy and almost proud to announce at my age (57, last I checked). I believe it is good for my body, mind, and soul. I still like to imagine having sex with children, even rape and such, but more often than not I just like the fantasy of being with my beautiful young soulmate (and fiancèe) and satisfying her, on all the levels and in all the ways one might satisfy the person they care more about in life than anyone else.
I call my girl as often as I can, though the 15 minute time limit on all personal calls makes it impossible to have anything resembling a full conversation. We manage at least to touch bases on the numerous philosophical and theological topics we discuss in depth in our letters. This helps clarify our discussions, but it'd be really nice if we could take our time and really think more about what we are trying to say on the phone so we might actually have a chance to "connect" the way people like me are so often accused of not being able to (it's like "they" don't want prisoners to "connect" with their loved ones, because that might go against their whole "sociopathic" theory or something.)
For the most past I am comfortable, and have no real complaints at this point in my life. I sometimes wonder if there is still something left for me to do in my life, like write a book, or discover some great secret (become enlightened?). But for now I am very content if my only purpose is loving my fiancée, and showing her my love in any, and every, way I can. That's far far more than I could have ever hoped for on this ride that I call my life.
[J.D. May 13, 2020]
I have a small paper trash can that I keep wrapped in an extra sheet so the two-scoops of ice we get each day will keep cold and I can store a few items, like milk from breakfast, or meat from lunch to make a late night snack with, etc..
I have a homemade HD-TV antenna that lets me get about 15 extra channels, which is nice because they are all much clearer (digital, and some HD) than the prison channels we get (which are all fuzzy analogue channels).
I crochet and draw too, but not very often. I made a nice hat for my mom, and some warm booty-socks for myself most recently. I am allowed to purchase a very limited selection of materials, such as yarn, pencils, and paper, via special purchase order (SPO) that I must pay for with a 30% make-up.
I can also purchase limited "religious items" by SPO as well. For example, I have a "religious medallion" and a beautiful deck of tarot cards with Jung-inspired artwork that I bought via SPO. (The medallion is a pewter pentagram/wolf that I wear in honor of my commitment to my fiancèe in lieu of an engagement ring, which I'm not allowed to have.)
We can order commissary once a week. I usually order coffee, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, and salt (i.e. things that make the meals here a little more palatable). I sometimes buy "treats" for myself, like cookies, chips, or candy, but I try not to make it a habit. The selection is very limited. We must also buy our own hygiene and stationary items, also very limited in choice (e.g. no dental floss, unperfumed soap, and only one kind of pen with black ink --- no other pens are allowed, not even via SPO).
I also buy tweezers, and use them to heat water for my coffee by clipping two pairs to the tongs of my T.V. plug then holding a cup of salted water up to immerse the tweezers which then heat the water to a boil in about 30 or 40 seconds. I then use the heated water, which is tainted with iron oxide in the process, to heat clean water in a separate bottle that I immerse in the tainted water. This all takes about four minutes, but the effort is worth it for a drinkably hot cup of instant coffee. The tweezers end up rusting away and must be replaced every other month or so, because of the salt (without salt it takes too long to heat the water). Some of the other prisoners have more elaborate "stingers" for heating water in their cells that use cords and sometimes even an insulated cup to make a kind of double boiler. But, I prefer the much simpler tweezer method.
Currently, due to the corona-virus scare, we are only allowed out of our cells if we sign up a day in advance to use one of the TRULINCS computers. There is no "rec" or "leisure room", and all our meals are either in snacks or Styrofoam trays. Most of the guards have been wearing masks (usually bandannas for some reason) and all prisoners are required to wear washable cloth masks (that were made and issued by the prison itself) anytime we leave our cell (I've only worn mine twice since they were issued over a month ago, which goes to show how rarely I leave my cell). So, I've been washing my hands frequently, and wiping down the phone with disinfectant every time I use it to be safe. No one in this unit has gotten sick yet, but I expect they will sooner or later.
Overall, the "pandemic" has actually improved my life considerably. Too bad it won't last (though, like many, I believe this "pandemic" is only the beginning of something that will get much worse, and soon). The meals are better (probably because they are made more simply), I have fewer reasons to leave my cell, and I get more phone time with the love of my life. I don't think it will ever get much better than this, which is okay too.