Don’t Get Sick in Federal Prison

Don’t Get Sick in Federal Prison


My journal entry star date circa October 16, 2015, in Otisville Federal prison:

Inmate Ari did something very risky today.  He sought medical help.  Ari is locked up for various crimes, including mortgage fraud and impersonating a lawyer at real estate closings.  Today he was sick and needed medical attention.  He went to see the prison nurse.  What can be so risky about seeing the prison nurse?

Awhile back my co-defendant, the Greek, went to see the prison nurse.  The nurse thought he had pneumonia, so she locked him up next door in the medium prison in the SHU (solitary), so he wouldn’t spread his germs.  The SHU is a closet sized cage, where you are locked up 23 hours a day, with a florescent light shining on you the entire time.  You get to come out of your cage and look at the sunshine for an hour a day.

The Greek was new to the prison when he went to see the nurse for a low grade fever.  He didn’t know any better.  A veteran like myself would never see the bluegirl nurse for such at thing.  But Ari knew better.  He was also a veteran.  I was surprised he went to see the nurse.  But he was sick for a few weeks.  He was trying to hold out.  But he started to look really ill and had a bad rash.  He finally broke down and saw the nurse.

The nurse determined that Ari’s rash was shingles.  He needed to be quarantined in the SHU.  The Greek got out of the SHU in one day.  He begged to be re-examined by another nurse.  He had a miraculous recovery.  He was ready to get out of the SHU and start running laps.

Ari was not so lucky.  He was stuck in the SHU for weeks.  When he finally got out he was a few pounds lighter and looked shell shocked.  That’s usually what happens when you get stuck in the SHU.  I almost got thrown in the SHU a few times.  I guess I got lucky and avoided it.  It’s hard not to stay out of the SHU.

There was a guy named Bernard in his 70s who got very sick.  A sophisticated, yet prickly, New Yorker from Park Avenue on the Upper West Side. Bernard had slippers, a bathrobe and tortoise shell eyeglasses.  He frequently sat in his cubicle reading the New York Times.  He walked with a cane.

Rather than see the prison doctor Bernard let the inmates take care of him.  We had a few doctors who were locked up.  They kept tabs on him.  Other inmates kept a lookout for any unfriendly blueboyz.  If a blueboy came around Bernard had to sit up and look happy.  Other inmates would distract the blueboy.

Even though most guys in prison acted like high school bullies, there were times when guys showed their sensitive side.  If you saw a guy suffering, it reminded you of your own suffering.  You couldn’t help but feel the pain.  Unless you were a soulless attorney like myself.  I couldn’t empathize with anyone.  I was an attorney.  I was trained to be heartless.

There was one time where the guys got very mad at me for not showing any compassion for another inmate.  There was a young guy named Maximus.  Maximus was aloof.  He didn’t talk much.  He kept to himself.  He thought he was better than everyone else.  Even his name sounded pretentious.  Maximus used to sit around all day in a cubicle in the library reading Chinese flash cards.  He also had a collection of high school textbooks that he read.  I don’t think he went to college. Some guys said he was very wealthy.

Maximus had a short sentence of a year and a day.  Guys automatically assume you are a rat if you have a sentence of a year and a day, so there were some guys who didn’t like Maximus.

One day Maximus’ wife came to visit him.  They sat together in the visitors room.  After a short period of time Maximus buried his head in his wife’s bosom and cried his eyes out.  Guys were walking by the window checking out Maximus in tears.  Not sure why he was crying.  He was probably homesick.  The same thing happens to kids who go away to summer camp.

The guys got very upset at me for making light of the misery of Maximus.  I guess lawyers don’t have feelings.  It is probably from many years of watching litigants cry their eyes out in divorce court.  Most of the time the tears are scripted in order to win sympathy with the judge.  I had one case where the wife dabbed her eyes throughout her testimony.  My client got very angry and told me she was faking.  When it was his turn to testify he awkwardly cried like a baby.  The judge, court reporter, attorneys and clerk all wore poker faces.  After it was over my client laughed and asked me how I would rate his performance.  I shrugged my shoulders.  I have seen it many times before.

Some guys accused me of writing blogs about the misery of Maximus.  How could I be so cruel?  I told them I wasn’t sending any blogs about Maximus to anyone on the outside.  That would only make me look bad.  I was trying to maintain my image as a hardened criminal.  If people thought I was locked up with a bunch of crybabies my reputation would be ruined.

Guys were trying to figure out if something tragic happened in the life of Maximus.  The few guys whom Maximus spoke with said that he was just down in the dumps.  He cried for a long time.  A few hours.  The blueboyz sat there with poker faces.  They have seen this before.


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