One thing I wondered about as the specter of jail or prison time loomed over my head for the past 5 years, was whether I’d be able to get enough sleep when and if I went in. I figured that 8 uninterrupted hours of quiet time was a fantasy I wouldn’t even bother to entertain. And as it turned out, I was dead on. Despite, I did not exit my incarceration sleep-deprived. But since, I sleep no longer than four hours at a time – owing to what my body is apparently still used to from being locked up.
In theory, 9 PM to 5 AM when almost all inmates are locked in would be that 8 hours of quiet time. But that’s not exactly how it worked. At 9, we without immediate job duties were confined to our cells. But several of the inmates remained outside sweeping, mopping and moving tables and chairs each night. That racket continued for at least an hour after lock-in time. Additionally, guys would shout out to each other from the confines of their cells so effectively, relative quiet didn’t really begin until after 10 PM.
That quiet time lasted until about 4:30 AM when the unit stirred with activity associated with 5 AM breakfast and guys hitting the bricks to work their $1 an hour jobs. So yes, in theory, there were six and a half quiet hours during which a guy could get uninterrupted sleep. But that’s just the theory. Officers were on duty throughout the night and I wouldn’t exactly say they were considerate when it came to “keeping it down.” They walked their rounds shining lights into the cells, pitter-pattering and jingle-jangling all the while. One night while sleeping blissfully, I woke to the sound of the television blaring New York One! Curious as to how and why the tv was on in the middle of the night, I peered out my little window to see a lone corrections officer sitting in a chair watching the news, oblivious to the fact that he was disturbing all the inmates.
One saving grace was 8 AM lock-in (for one hour) during which the floor was cleared and most of the inmates in my unit were at work. Often, I caught a few winks during that time to make up for what I missed overnight. By afternoon, it was mayhem in the unit. Most of the detainees (I love that word) were back and playing cards and dominos at a fever pitch. The din was remarkable. And I had a big-time boriqua card game right outside my door. Sleep was tough during those hours though incredibly, I did drift off a few times. I tend to get drowsy after reading for a while and the program was to find reading material of some sort…dig in…and then try to get a snooze when I got tired. It wasn’t easy but I actually managed a few times despite the 100 decibels of noise surrounding me.
I should add that while our doors locked shut for 10 hours every day, there was a 4 inch space under that door to slide food trays under in case a guy was locked in 24/7 for whatever reason (usually personal safety). Thus, the door didn’t cut out the noise when closed.
And I’m sure everybody wants to know what kind of bed we’re dealing with. Lots of guys complained about our sleeping mat. I didn’t have a problem with it. Once done with intake processing (which took 20 hours in my case), inmates are given a pack which includes spare khakis (which you’ve already donned after the initial strip search), a blanket, a pillow, a towel, two sheets and a sleeping mat. If you’ve ever watched “60 Days In” on A & E, that’s exactly what it’s like. Led to your cell, the inmate finds a stainless (though very stained) steel sink and toilet right at the door…and then a basic slab against the back wall. There you lay your mat down and rested your weary soul. The width of that bed is a little prohibitive. Rolling over in your sleep would mean rolling onto the floor. But the thinness and hardness of the accommodations were fine with me. After suffering a crushed vertebrae a few years ago (and yes, it was a bike accident and not a beating as some snitch claims), I like an extremely hard bed. The blanket was actually kind of decent. Not too scratchy and very necessary as the air conditioning was oddly, very strong in jail. The pillow was ridiculously rough. But I covered it with a sheet…slept on my back…and covered my eyes with my towel. I was fine. While the noise was a challenge, the mattress (or mat) really wasn’t.
And so there it is…sleeping in the joint. Easier than finding something constructive to do with your time. At least for me.