April 22, 2018
By: Gunther Fiek
Posted by: Bob Chatelle
Time passes by, and when one contemplates the days that are now gone, you suddenly realize that weeks have flown by. I guess that the fact that time rapidly passes by is good for one who is serving a sentence. I often tell other guys here that is doesn’t seem that I have served the number of years that I have … until I think about it. But taking it one day at a time, staying busy and keeping the mind focus on what I consider my priorities has allowed me to be numb to time.
We love yard call. Apart from exercising and being able to play sports such as basketball or soccer, it is also an opportunity to enjoy the fresh air and some sun. But it just seems that yard call has always been a thorn to the Department of Corrections (DOC). Lately, we have not been given yard call on a regular basis with the excuse that the facility is short staffed and that it jeopardizes security. And I’m not just referring to the facility where I’m currently at — it is a problem statewide. I say a thorn because, as far as I can remember, and at the different facilities that I have been, the department has never been consistent in calling yard call. Even when well staffed. Over the years we have been given a number of excuses to justify their reason for not calling yard call. But the main excuse used has always been ‘for security reasons.’ That excuse, to the DOC, allows them to avoid dealing with any grievances that may be filed by us or even potential lawsuits.
The US Supreme Court has ruled that we should be given, at a minimum, one hour of recreation time a day. However, the penological and well being of an institution comes first. So that’s what the DOC uses to ‘cover their back’ against any type of litigation as security overrides everything else. And, of course, no other explanation or proof needs to be shown to us mere inmates.
So, unless one has a detail (job), class or program to go to, you are stuck in your housing unit (dorm). Now, some issues arise because of this. For instance, it is against DOC policy for inmates to exercise inside the dorms. This rule, enforced by some officers and supervisors, is nonetheless policy. We are often encouraged by medical and our counselors to excersize regularly as a way to stay healthy physically and mentally. But if we are not allowed to exercise inside the dorms, and with yard time not being called, can someone explain to us – me – how are we supposed to stay healthy?
Another downside to the lack of yard call is the affect it has with the young inmates here – ninety babies! Lots of energy. Some how, though, that energy needs to be released. Without daily recreation time these young men will look for ways to release that energy and that has a direct affect to those other guys in the dorm. Yes, they can get wild. Very. They become a nuisance to the dorm — often times, by being disrespectful to the rest of the men in the dorm.
A some point early this year, or last year for that matter, bureaucrats in the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) came up with the bright idea to change the policy to where all inmates will no longer be issued or allowed to wear the DOC issued boots at any of the state facilities. Why? Not sure of their reasoning and of course we are not told. But speculation is that it was for either security or financial reasons. So a few weeks ago we had to turn in our boots and they were replaced with footwear that we inmates named as Krogs (Clogs in imitation of Crocs): ugly, bright orange rubber Krogs. Our new ‘Made in China’ footwear (So much for ‘Make America Great Again”) replaces the ‘Made In USA’ boots that were manufactured by inmates here in Georgia for the DOC and other state agencies. And with that decision also goes one of the few jobs that were available for us inmates serving time.
The Krogs brought some issues of concern. They have holes on top and around the sides. While the Krogs have been used for some time at certain county jails and at the private prisons contracted by the DOC to house some state inmates, at all those facilities the inmates are indoors. Inmates at just about every state facility go outdoors upon leaving their dorms to go to just about anywhere within the facility. These includes places such as the chow hall, medical, school, church, library … etc. etc. Apparently, in making a decision in changing the policy, someone did not take into consideration Mother Nature. Even on rainy days we must go outdoors when leaving our dorms to go to any of the places mentioned — and they are not short distances. Plus, if we run into a lock gate, we must stand in socking rain until a guard shows up to open it.
Nevertheless, apart from getting our clothes socking wet from the rain, we must now also deal with wet feet. As with the Krogs matter that we are now facing, several years ago a change of policy by probably those same DOC bureaucrats did away with the bright yellow raincoats all inmates were issued. So never mind the elderly inmate getting wet and risking the chance of catching pneumonia — or anyone who is sick. Rain or shine, if you want to eat, you have no choice but to go to the chow hall. The same goes if you want to attend one of the worship services, visitation with loved ones, or one of the required classes one must take. You will be wet as Flipper for at least a couple of hours.
I think the added cost in medical expenses in treating sick inmates may not be in the best interest of tax payers.