Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The story of the Six-Man cell (Part 1)

A six-man cell is a special place to do prison time. The mathematics is enough to make the point clear : a two man, 8'x 13' cell provides 52 square feet per person. The six-man gives 20% less, for which to experience 3 times the bodily functions, individual preferences, idiosyncrasies, attitudes, and routines. Although the six-man is a temporary housing placement for those just coming onto the compound or out of the hole, these are times of compromise and understanding, humor and thick skin, tolerance and..the odd man out. This is the story of six grown men coexisting in a 20'x 20' cement box.
This is the story of the odd man out:

Prison is full of great personalities. Some of then are dysfunctional for reasons of poor self-esteem while others are the product of an overinflated sense of who they really are. Some are funny; some are aggressive; some are mild mannered and phlegmatic; some are talented and passionate about the talent; some are talented and disinterested in anything but the moment; some are brilliant and arrogant; some are just complex liars and believe everything they've come up with through hundreds of sleepless speed binges; others are humble to the point of quiet ignorance and a meek acceptance that this lifestyle is merely a resting place while transitioning to something more scenic; some think they're super-badass and are looking for every instance to prove it, while others want to be viewed as super badass without ever having to put in the work. In short, the inmates in a six-man cell are the same men in any cell and on any yard in America; they are the same men on any street in any neighbourhood in far as idiosyncrasies and personalities are concerned. However, where matters of the character are measured, most men in prison are troubled and bereft, like retirees with smartphones-they know that the application is helpful, but it seems too complicated and senseless for the lifestyle they've adjusted to. Inmates in a six-man cell can actually be classified in two types- the Hardier and the Herdier.

The hardier have an affinity for jestering and making light of their situation, even if that sometimes includes picking on one of the herdier, or herd-minded, inmates. Hardier inmates will stand up for themselves; they'll often fight for reasonably understandable offenses against their pride, and just as often they will jump out there for no definably good reason. They can always justify the craziest reactions-even those that result in court action and longer sentences- with "I had to do what I had to do." The hardier inmate will back his friends up for almost any reason, as long as they haven't stolen, told or messed with a punk, and although he claims to be an independent thinker, he expects the same from his comrades. The hardier inmate is an enigma of childishness and warrior-mindedness that imitates itself with violent self-expression. The Hardier inmate excels in the six-man situation because, although he'd rather have a double cell for the relative privacy and "permanence" of cell housing, he can make a smiley face in any situation- be it the "hole", an outdoor recreation cage (dog run) in 100 degree weather, or a "drunk tank" covered in pepper spray and blood. The Herdier inmate, on the other hand, can only think of past comforts and a distant future when those comforts will once again be a part of his life. Whether they be food, privacy, or the safety of non-confrontation, the image of these comforts keep the herdier inmate in check, ever obeying fear and hope over the demands for personal respect and consideration. Whenever they have an opportunity to stand for something they profess to believe, they stall-ever measuring the internal rewards against the comforts to be sacrificed-until the moment has passed and removed all hope of progress to either end. They are cautious and careful and observant side of the prison ethos, while the hardier are definitely the action and reaction, impulse and repulse. The herdier inmate rules, they rules by sheer numbers in general population and thus they dictate how the prison's regulations are generally observed.( Otherwise prison breaks would be the norm and caged humans would be responding as caged humans should-with resistance.)
This is not a life of ideals and extremes, and nor is this a story of extremes. It has it's moments though and this is a non-violent example of what happened to one of the herd in a six-man cell with four of the hardier be continued

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