Oct 14

General Population

general population


General Population

After a month in 3 Base reception, I was finally ready to move up into the medium custody general population. There were four medium custody wings that housed about 240 inmates each. My domicile assignment was 3 Wing. They issued me a new identification badge that had “3W” and “MED” typed on it, as well as my mugshot. A guard told me to pack up all my stuff and we would head up stairs. I put all of my belongings in a green Army laundry bag that closed with a white drawstring, stepped out of my cell and followed the guard out of 3 Base.

Right outside was a staircase that lead up to the next floor. 3 Wing was right above 3 Base, so we didn’t have to go far. The entrance to the wing had a large metal sliding door, that had to be opened in order for us to enter. This door was to keep all the inmates confined to the wing, because everyone was allowed to be out of their cells during the day. Once the guard and I stepped in, the door closed behind us, locking us in and sealing the wing.

Looking around quickly, I  surveyed the wing. The first thing I noticed, was that there were so many inmates. Most of them were wearing their brown pants and either a t-shirt or no shirt. They were moving around all over the place. The second thing I noticed was that it was loud. Imagine the voices of about 240 men all talking at the same time. It never, ever stopped.

I saw was a six story cell block in the center of the wing. The cells were back to back and so the openings were facing to the left and the right. The entire cell block was enclosed in chain link so that no one could jump or be pushed off. On the front end of the cell block was a staircase that was also enclosed in the chain link. Each tier had a sign on it stating what level it was. The ground floor level started at three going up to the eighth tier. This was because the first two levels were underground in 3 Base. Placed in front of the staircase, was a row of pay phones that could be used for making collect calls. There were inmates using the phones and more inmates standing in line, waiting for their turns.

On the left side, between the cell block and the left wing wall, there were some table top games like ping pong. Also, there was a row of round steel tables surrounded with smaller round steel benches. On this side the wall had windows, starting at about the second tier going almost all the way up to the ceiling.

On the right side, there were more of the same kind of tables. Near the back of the wing was a sliding door to the entrance of the mess hall, that was currently closed. About half way down was the exit from the mess hall that was also closed. Near the front of the wing on the right side was a bunch of metal folding chairs placed in front of a TV. No noise was coming from the TV though.  All the inmates sitting in the chairs, had headphones on, that were all plugged into jacks on the wall. There were no windows on the right wall.

To the left was a large cage with a couple guards in it. This is where the guards kept their equipment and inmate medications for anyone who had prescriptions. One or two guards were always inside the guard cage. If you needed to do anything outside of your regular routine, you went to the guard cage. So, I checked in there and was given my cell assignment.

The rest of the guards assigned to the wing, made their rounds through the tiers about every half hour. All guards had handcuffs, a radio, and a red radio looking device attached to their belts. The red device was a body alarm and if it ever tipped over, a group of guards with riot gear on would burst into the domicile and subdue the inmate that caused the alarm to go off. Said inmate would be immediately whisked away to 4 Base, Maximum security. This is of course if he didn’t need medical attention. These guards were called, “The Goon Squad.”

I was assigned to the eighth tier, window side of the cell blocks. As I was escorted towards the fenced in staircase I noticed that although no one really said anything to me, there were a lot of eyes focused in my direction. I tried to look calm and not pay attention, but it kind of freaked me out. Once I entered the staircase, I felt a little better. It was like the chain link created a barrier between me and their view. Once the guard and I made it up to 8 tier, we turned left and headed down the walk way toward my cell.

Looking down over the railing and through the chain link I could see six stories down. I thought to myself that it was a good thing that fence was here, because it would be a nasty fall to the concrete floor from this high up. I also noticed that I could see out of the windows into the courtyard. There were various buildings surrounding the courtyard. Also close to the Castle, there was a flag pole with the American flag gently flapping in the the light breeze. The United States symbol of freedom and pride flew, while my head hung in confinement and shame.

On the right side were the cells, they were identical to the ones in 3 Base. They were all painted a very light green color. I tried not to look into other inmates cells because I didn’t want to invade anyone’s privacy and I really did not want to make eye contact with anyone. I don’t remember actually seeing anyone, either the cells were vacant or the inhabitants were downstairs.

The bunk with a mattress came complete with sheets, pillow and an Army green wool blanket with the letters US stamped on it. Behind the bunk was a metal cabinet with a door on it for me to store my personal items. On the back wall there was a stainless steel toilet with a sink attached to it. Bolted to the wall there was a shiny piece of sheet metal that acted as a mirror. It was kind of scratched up and it felt like I was looking into a carnival mirror. There was a wooden desk attached to the wall that folded down when not in use. There also was a metal plate on the wall that had three headphone jacks on it. If you plugged a set of headphones into them each one had a different style of music that was piped in by the DB radio station.

I decided to settle in and just stay put for awhile. I don’t think I was ready to mingle just yet. At 3:55 pm there was a call for, “Lock down in five minutes.” I heard a lot of noise as inmates shuffled around grabbing their folding chairs and whatever else they had with them. They were all headed to their respective cells for a face to face prison wide head count. At 4:00 pm all cell doors simultaneously slid shut and locked into place. As the guards made their way around each tier they would call out for us to stand at our cell door and face forward so that we could be identified by our badge. Once checked we could do whatever we wanted in the cell until they opened back up. The cell doors would not open until approximately 1500 inmates in all custody levels were one hundred percent accounted for.

About a half hour later my cell door slid open as one of the guards called out over the intercom, “Chow call.” I nervously stepped out of my cell and headed towards the stairwell.


General population (Click to Tweet)

  • Steven Tessler

    Amazing detail! I’m sure you’d never forget this place.

    It’s like the ships I was stationed on. I remember them vividly.

    Can’t wait for the next post!

    • David Mike

      The detail comes from looking at the picture and closing my eyes. The image above is actually where I was. It was a little older picture because the chain link enclosure is not there but the rest is the same. Thank you!

  • The details make the reader feel like they are there. It is amazing the way the mind remembers the things unimportant at the time.

    • David Mike

      See comment on Steven Tessler’s comment. Thanks for all the comments, I appreciate you!

  • Rob Beaudreault

    As previously mentioned, you did a fabulous job of bringing the reader with you on this post. The details and location descriptions were on point. Great post, my friend!

    • David Mike

      Thanks Rob, I appreciate your comment. I know that most people like the emotionally driven posts better, but I feel like these are necessary to understand where I was and the conditions of the facility.

  • Ugh! Reading this makes me feel trapped. I cannot imagine what it’s like to relive this as you write through these early days. I agree with everyone who talks about the wonderful power of the details you’ve included. Aside from the feeling of being trapped, there’s also a bit of fear that seems to pulse beneath your descriptions. We’ve all heard so many stories about prison/prisoners; I cannot help but be afraid for you as you avoid eye contact or mingling in this post. Alas, you are called to dinner…

    My favorite line. Beautiful image:

    The United States symbol of freedom and pride flew, while my head hung in confinement and shame.

    • David Mike

      I almost ended the post on that line, but I felt like it would have cut it too short. I was pretty nervous at first, but things got better after a short time. I hope I am not over describing things because I seem to get better responses from the more emotional posts, but I think I need to set the stage, so to speak.

  • I agree with Judith, that is a great line. There’s a lot of pressure from being the new guy no matter where you are. I imagine that it’s escalated a little bit at the DB. I did some “KP” in my early days in the Army. I am hoping that you really like the kitchen detail you’ve been assigned or you find you way out of it soon!

    • David Mike

      I hated it!

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