Note to Chelsea/Bradley: Your Prison Survival Guide

So yur gonna do time.  Take this note, from one convict to another.  Make it your bible.  God knows you’ll go friggin’ nuts in this place if ya don’t.

Yur probably in shock right now kid.  Probably wondering what the hell your future’s going to be, spendin’  the next few decades behind prison bars.  Stop right there.  Your brain will explode if you try to think about it. Get off that merry go round and don’t think about yur life doin’ time till you hear those cell doors close behind you.  First things first, kid, you gotta go through processing .

Now when you go through processing, you focus only on what yur doin’ at the moment.  On the bus to a new joint?  You focus on that bus ride kid, you pay attention to every little detail out yur window.  You check out the markings on the back of the seat in front of you and ponder them like they’re the very words of christ almighty.  You get to that new joint kid?  You focus on each and every little step.  You do this ’cause you gotta block out all that leerin’ and jeerin’ and catcalls coming from the cells around you, you do this ’cause you gotta tune out those sons a bitches calling you a “fucking traitor” and threaten’ your life, you gotta watch yur feet as if they’re the only thing in your world that exist, ’cause even the guards’ll talk shit to your scrawny ass.  If you let them in, they’ll eat you up. Tune ’em out, kid.  Tune ’em out even when you gotta lift yur nuts and spread yur ass cheeks, you stare HARD at that fucking speck on the floor as if it’s the Mona Lisa.  “Stand up and turn around pussies!”  You get yur issue, that’s yur clothes, you get yur blanket and yur pillow and then they walk you to yur cell.

I’m sorry I gotta be the one to tell ya this kid, but yur gonna be stuck doin’ a lot of time in the hole.  That’s solitary confinement kid.  Yur special you see.  You got fame, you got notoriety, people gonna wanna hit ya just to get the braggin’ rights.  It’s a helluva game I know, but that’s the straw you draw.

Now.  Here’s the thing about the hole, kid.  It gets boring real quick.  You gotta get yurself a routine just like they taught ya in boot camp.  You keep that routine religiously kid.  You live by that routine, that routine becomes the one way to survive.  You got alotta time kid, the trick is to milk everything for time.  That way you stay busy. That way, before ya know it, ten years have passed.  Here’s what I mean.

I knew a kid, sat down to eat his lunch.  Never saw somebody take his sweet ass time makin’ such a pitiful excuse for a sandwich as this prick.  He had what we all had:  two slices of white bread, each wrapped in plastic, a little packet of peanut butter, a little packet of jelly, a five inch piece of carrot, and a bag of Lay’s Potato Chips.  This little punk unwraps each piece of bread and places each one in jus’ the right place on his napkin.  Then he squeezes his peanut butter onto the bread, making sure to cover every damn square inch of that slice of bread.  Then he proceeds to do the same thing with his jelly.  I’m not kiddin’ here.  He squeezes every bit o’ jelly outta that packet and then, all smart and sassy like, takes his time to spreeeaaad it around, making sure that every bit of bread is covered.  Then, you won’t believe what this jerk-off does next.  I about had a coronary just watchin’ ‘im. He took out his little knife.  Now this isn’t any kind of knife you ever saw kid, this is the kind you get in the fed’s house, this knife is really a jacked razor blade.  This puny ass kid had smuggled the single blade we get in the disposable razors they issue us.  Everyone’s got one, by the way kid. Necessity is the mother of invention when yur in the slog. He takes his blade and begins to slice his carrot into looonnnng thin, slices.  Takes him five goddamn minutes to slice that poor little carrot into paper thin slices. Then he places those carrot slices on top of his carefully spread peanut butter.  He opens up the bag o’ chips.  All tender-like, as if their eggs, this little asshole takes out the whole chips and places them separately on a napkin.  He saves them to eat later, one at a time. He crumbles up the rest of those chips and dumps them on top of the carrots, puts the jelly slice on top of the mound of puke he just made for himself and has his sannwich. Takes him twenty, sometimes twenty-five minutes to build that thing.  First time he saw it, my friend Casper flipped his lid.  “Boy, what the fuck’s the matter wit you you gotta take your sweet ass time makin’ your samich?”  Casper had a short ass fuse, but the rest of us knew what that idiot kid meant when he yelled back, “Fuck you, asshole!  I got fifteen years to go in this pig house, I’ll take my sweet ass time makin’ my sand-wich!”

Repeat after me kid:  The secret to doing time is staying busy.  There’s the usual, you read, you write letters, you workout, you jerk-off.  You get obsessed with yur clothes and yur bed.  When yur laundry comes ’round, you might spend an hour folding seven pieces of clothes, but you made sure every fold was just right, every wrinkle smoothed out after every fold.  I mean ya get obsessed over folding, it has to be precise in either halves or thirds or quarters. You focus on brushing each tooth.  You savor every bite of food there is to eat.  You listen to any sound available.   The idea is to be focused on something all the time, kid, even if it’s the smallest little detail.  You make sure you don’t own any watch, or calendar, or anything that you can see like that.  That shit will torture you.  You just stay busy kid, that way, you lose sense of time, and before you know it, ten years have passed.  Shit, I been in fer thirty years so far kid, ain’t nothin’.

Here’s the real snag, kid. Inside the hole is a dull, blank, bland world. Its lifeless and colorless.   Yur brain’s gonna need stimulation and so you start daydreaming.  You let yur imagination get wild kid, colorful, detailed. It’s the one thing that’ll keep you sane.  Hell, you can probably imagine entire episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race and before ya know it five years have flown by.

Yur lookin’ at a long time in the slammer kid.  Remember, the secret to doing time is staying busy.

Good luck kid, god knows you’ll need it.

 

 

author’s note:  this is actual advice, taken from my husband who was sentenced to one of the worst prisons in california at the young age of 16…he did 15 years, at one point serving eighteen consecutive months in the hole.   we were discussing chelsea/bradley manning and the sentencing she got, this is his sage advice.  i know its graphic, but what good am i as a writer if i don’t include the reality?   be well…frankie

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About Frankie Wallace

Frankie earned her BA in History from CSU Chico. She lives in northern California with one husband, two dogs, and three boys. Frankie is an avid cooker, reader, hiker, and napper. View all posts by Frankie Wallace

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