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Follow-up from Jorge: Moving Down a Level

 Hi everyone! My co-author Jorge (please buy our book, Letters From the Inside: Hope in the Journey Beyond Classroom and Cell. All proceeds go to his family!) wanted to update you all about daily life in prison. The next couple blog posts will be from him! If you want to help his family out financially or write to him, please contact me!

I can't put photos of him or the prison so photo credit Sam C, a student who took some photos to evoke the feeling of prisons in various ways for this series.

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It's crazy how things can be going really good then with a snap of a finger it can just change out of nowhere! July 29th, I landed on F-yard, which is a level 2, my first time ever experiencing a level 2. My whole time incarcerated I have been cell living and that's how I been doing my time for the past six years, so I didn't know any different. So dropping down a level was a big change for me.

When I got sent to F-yard because I moved down to level 2, all I knew was that instead of cells it was pods, and instead of two people in a cell, it was eight people per pod! So there were many things going through my head about this new environment. I didn't know what to expect. The first week on that yard, I felt really awkward. EVERYTHING is run differently, and of course because it's a level 2, you have more freedom! 

What I found crazy was the phone situation. Instead of an inmate coming cell to cell to sigh you up for phone calls, YOU sign yourself up. So like, around 2:30 pm, if you're not up there in line for calls, you will not get a night call. Those in line first usually aim for a night call so those are the ones who go quick. And of course you know who doesn't want to call their family at night time after their day is over and they are finally getting the chance to relax. I know I always wanted to make sure I had a night call!

Other than the phone situation, what I also found different was the cell cleaning! In cell living, since there are only two guys in a cell, you take turns. You'll do it at one time, then your celly would do it the next day. So it's not that bad, plus due to the fact that it's only two people and the cell isn't that big and as long as you know you're celled up with someone that is a clean person and has good hygiene you know no matter what when it's time to clean the cell, it's going to get cleaned.

Now on a level 2, that's pod living with eight people including yourself, the cleaning becomes really difficult. Because most of the time not everything in your pod is clean and has good hygiene, which is expected. Then everyone in the pod has to establish some type of cleaning routine, where everybody has to contribute to clean at least one day of the week. Last but not least, not everybody is going to clean to your standards and most of the time it's because they're not clean with themselves so they don't care if they do a good job as long as it looks like they halfway did something and contributed to "cleaning," that's all that matters.

When it was my day, I would make sure I cleaned the whole pod and under everybody's bunks, but to be honest I cleaned every day because when it was another person's day, they wouldn't do it to my standards. So after that person was done cleaning, I'd go back and clean ONLY my area how I like it. 

I understand that everybody has their way of doing things. I don't expect people to do things to my standards, but if someone does something around my area and I feel it didn't get done the right way, I am going to go back and do it over to how I like things done because I have to live there. You know, I do everything in my area: eat, sleep, hang out, just everything. So I'm always going to make sure that MY area is always clean.

It took me a few weeks, but I adjusted to this new way of programming and to be honest, after getting the hang of everything, I was actually starting to like level 2! I was enjoying the freedom that you're given on a lower level. Your door to your pod gets popped open at 7 am all the way until 5 pm. You just have to shut it for like 30 minutes for count then it gets popped again from like 5:30 to 9:15 pm. So your door stays open all through the day if you need to maybe go and grab something from your friend in another pod, you can just head and grab it without thinking like the door is locked. P

Phone calls start at 7:30 am and stop at 4:30 pm, because everyone has to take in and get ready for count. Then as I said before, you get popped back out at 5:30 pm, but phone calls won't begin until 7 pm and the last call is at 9 pm to 9:15 pm, after that program is shut down. So after going from being nervous because I was going to a level 2, I ended up liking it way more than cell living at the end. 

The whole time I was on F-yard, I was unassigned until maybe like three weeks ago. I ended up getting a yard crew job and I got put in a GED class! This made me happy because I ended up with a job that was pretty cool and I was happy about the GED class because I was really want to be able to get my GED already. I want to be able to show my family and my girlfriend that I did it.

The two weeks or so that I had the yard crew job, I really enjoyed it. One thing that I benefited from having this job was that I didn't have to line up no more to sign up for a call. I was able to get first dibs on the phone list everybody, because my job started at 2:30 pm so since I had to walk out at that time, I was able to just sign up.

As far as for work, all I had to do was pick up all the trash bags in front of every building and take them to the gate where the big dumpster was and my job was done. The job was really easy. After I was done, I 'd wait until 3:30 pm when the yard was over and I'd go inside with my big bag of ice they gave the yard crew workers and would just take my shower, wash all my clothes, and finally be able to sit back, relax, and drink my cold ice water.

As for my GED class, I didn't even get to participate in it because out of nowhere one day around midday, I got called to the podium where the COs sit, and he told me that I needed to pack all my things because I was getting sent to A section, which is a quarantine section. I was totally confused as to why I was getting quarantined because I hadn't been anywhere where I could have been exposed to COVID. The only people that get quarantined are those who go somewhere or have been next to someone who has been exposed to the virus. 

(to be continued soon)

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