- Faith & Family
When I first went to prison in 1990, Florida prisoners had a long list of privileges at their disposal which made doing time a somewhat tolerable experience. Within the last 10 years or so, though, that list of privileges has shortened dramatically. Now prisoners across the state are doing what can only be described as hard time. Even before the economic meltdown had officially plagued our country in 2007, inmates had begun to lose access to items they were once authorized to have in their possession. Once it was permissible for them to receive care packages from home twice a year that included “luxury” items: socks, underwear,
T-shirts, pajamas, shorts, thermals tops and bottoms, sweat shirts, leather belts, dress shoes, sneakers, towels, wash cloths, watches, jewelry, sunglasses, photo albums, hygienic products and large one-speaker radios with headphones. Family members could go out and purchase those items from mainstream department stores that stocked name-brand merchandise before finally shipping the packages off to their loved ones who were incarcerated. When the package permit-era ended, inmates were left with no other choice but to order a sadly-reduced number of generic-brand comfort items at above-normal prices from the inmate canteen.
As the dominos continued to fall one-by-one, out of nowhere, the Department also decided to prohibit inmates from being in possession of “girlie” magazines. That ban made life more frustrating for thousands of sexually deprived, safe sex-minded adult prisoners.
A five dollar medical co-payment fee at sick-call was next to fall in line. At some point, the Department began charging prisoners a service fee whenever they received money through the mail. At one time, inmates could pick up the telephone and make collect calls anywhere around the world. Later we were required to submit a list of numbers that had to be approved.
Over the years, more rules and restrictions have been added to the book and under the new system, inmates are required to serve 85 percent of their sentence before being released; which is why prisons have become big business. While doing time, inmates will find themselves being warehoused with relatively no vocational training programs or opportunities to truly rehabilitate — those days are long gone.
There are some positive things that have occurred but for the most part, as rapper Bubba Sparx warned would happen in one of his songs, it has gotten “ugly up in here, up in here.”
The best solution is to never come to prison. But if you do manage to land here and make it out, don’t ever come back again.
By Arthur Lee Hall, Jr.