Thursday, July 26, 2007

maximum security

maximum security
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
I was in prison again this morning. No matter how many times I go in there, the feel is always a bit jolting. Security at the gate is really not much different than an airport, except that they don’t search your stuff. You just can’t take anything in. My guitar was on the manifest, so it slid through the X-ray. I asked if it had any broken braces, but the radiologist acted as if he had no idea what I was talking about.
This morning, I thought symbolically about several routine things. When I sign in, they take my driver’s license and replace it with a generic visitor’s pass through a drawer in a steel wall. Behind the tinted, double-paned, bulletproof glass, I can see the vague silhouette of the officer taking my identity. A state seal replaces my smiling mug, “visitor” replaces my name, and I’m sent down a long tunnel to the “yard.” Doors mysteriously buzz, unlatch and slide open in front of me and slam shut with echoes behind before the next door opens.
In the yard is the beautiful desert island landscaping I’ve told you about, surrounded by concrete with white lines upon which the prisoners always have to walk in single file. The island is beautiful, but symbolically it says, “in the middle of the razor wire, steel and concrete, there is an oasis of sand and cacti.” This is assuredly a dry and thirsty land.
This morning, there were a couple dozen guys standing on the line at attention with duffel bags beside them listening to instructions at 110db from a tiny 20-something lady.
Inside again, I learned that those guys were all being transferred to another institution. Everything they needed is in the bag. I mentioned that it must be rough being shuffled around all over the state at the whim of an unknown decision maker. Another prisoner said, “no, they’re probably excited it will be a change and give them a bit of time alone in the process.”
I thought about how sad it is that we usually have to be broken and wounded quite deeply before we realize that we’ve got nothing to lose. Is there an irony in that prisoners are surrendered and willing to being moved around, while those of us who are truly free to be moved are chained to things and places and way’s of life and day-timers, and corporate ladders? Perhaps we require instructions at 110db from a tiny, sassy, 20-something lady rather than the breezy whisper that rustles the leaves but barely rustles our starched shirts.
I talked with the guys, sang some songs with them. I made my way back through the yard, past the desert, through the tunnel. My name was returned to me, and my face replaced the state seal. The remote doors mysteriously unlatched and crashed before and behind me, and I made my way back to my truck. I mysteriously unlatched the locked door with the key fob in my pocket, started the engine, and pulled out of the parking lot. I started when the doors automatically locked when I took my foot off the brake.