|Posted on August 3, 2018 at 5:25 PM||comments (0)|
HURRY UP AND EAT
Well, hellooo, my forward facers! How are ya? So once again, here we are dealing with another recognizable phrase--- Chow Time! This is what I’m going to talk about today. Chow time-- what it means behind bars and where the phrase comes from. Secondly, how it works. Next, how fast you’re expected to eat and why. After that, I’m going to talk about my definition of “Chow Time”, how I ate, and you can too. Lastly, we’ll discuss why and what you should really hurry up and eat to move forward.
So, let’s chow down! In jail or prison, when you’re called to “chow time” this means it is time to eat. When you’re incarcerated, one of the main things you focus on is eating. Food in jail is pretty bad. It is usually a sandwich and maybe a piece of fruit or a cookie. The sandwiches are made up of what prisoner’s call “mystery meat”. It is made up of 2 pieces of bread and a mustard packet. Initially, chow was usually referred to as food given to barn yard animals, so this is why it was adopted as a term for jail or prison food because it is like slop. In prison, the food is a little better because of the monitoring of government dollars, and the longer-term inmates are there. I’m not going to talk too much about the particular foods, nutritional part of chow time, or lack there-of. I mainly want to talk about the “hurry up” aspect that is placed on eating on the inside.
Now, let me tell you a little bit about how the whole food thing works. In Georgia, there is the Dept. of Corrections Food and Farm services whose job is to supply the GDC with nutritional meals for offenders at the lowest possible cost to the state’s taxpayers. They have been affiliated with Georgia Correctional Industries since January 2009 and are responsible for feeding 44,000 inmates daily. They produce 41% of the Department’s annual food requirement. They also utilize approximately 14,100 acres of land and approximately 5,000 offenders for labor to produce that 41% of the Department’s annual food requirements. In an era of tight government budgets and little sympathy for the incarcerated, three square meals per day in jail are also giving way to aggressive cost-cutting through outsourcing of food services. In Georgia dozens of jails have moved the responsibility from the hands of government to private companies when it comes to their food service; even small counties save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Some have even cut their costs in half. Institutions pay approx. $1 - $3 per inmate per meal to companies such as Trinity and Aramark. Two meals a day are the minimum requirements by state law, but most serve 3. Any other food, such as snacks, come from the jail commissary or care packages, but that’s only for prisoners who follow the rules or who have money in personal accounts managed by the jail or prison.
With regards to how it works in the life of an inmate, the process is very systematic from our perception. “Chow time” is called, the doors are popped, and if you snooze-you lose. You line up single file, you go to chow hall, you get your food, you sit where you are directed to, or if you’re taking your food to-go, then, you keep it moving out the door. If you’re eating in the chow hall, you better learn to “hurry up and eat”. Now, lets discuss why you’re expected to eat so fast. The reason I laid that initial ground work was to simplify this part and make it much easier to understand. There are two things that are going on with why you’re expected to eat so fast. One of the explanations for this is that there are personal issues involving deputies; It allows some of them to show authority over the inmates by rushing you and really showing you who’s in control. It also cuts down on socialization time and any aspect that may make you feel a part of a community, group, or in unity; as they may perceive that as a threat to their safety. They may also want to “hurry up” and return to whatever they were doing, or it may even simply be that it is close to time for them to clock out and they have other things to finish up prior to that. Now to you, it’s all part of this “hurry up system of incarceration”. As you know, there’s nothing nutritional or healthy, or even sensible about rushing someone eat a full meal in 7 -10 minutes. The second explanation is what I previously talked about, which is the technical side of how it works. Simply put, cost cutting equals smaller meals, smaller meals equal less time needed to eat, less time needed to eat equals the faster government can get inmates out a controlled environment they have to create requiring more staff and provisions that may cost them more money. SO, HURRY UP AND EAT, INMATE! Unfortunately, either explanation involves you being rushed and expected to eat fast. However, there is good news, which is the reason why I’m here. This is the reason why I love doing this podcast. I want to reassure and encourage you that you don’t have to look back at it all, you don’t have to continue with those enforced bad habits, but you can learn new ones.
When I say “chow time”, it means it is time to learn. Chow time technically means to eat food, immediately and when it is first available. To learn means to gain or acquire the knowledge of a skill in (something) by study, experience, practice, or being taught. All the while I was incarcerated, even from day one, I made it my business to learn. When you first go to jail, they tell you all about what is happening, what you have the right to do, what not to do, and how things are going to go. I learned exactly what to do by listening carefully and asking questions every chance I got. I asked other inmates, I asked staff, and I asked my family to look things up and make phone calls. If I was given a piece of paper, whether it was from an attorney, counselor, chaplain, an inmate, staff member, or volunteer, I read it. I learned what information on the piece of paper was referring to or what it was asking of me. I learned by observing what was going on around me, from the behaviors of others and what treatment they received in return as a result of those behaviors. I always listened to the many sounds, instructions coming from a loud speaker, words between inmates, conversations between guards and inmates, and even logs shared from guard to guard during shift changes. I read any reading materials that were made available, especially the Bible. When I went to prison, everyone was being handed these really big books. I noticed most of the women were using them as pillows while waiting in holding cells. I looked at the cover and it said something in the form of CDCR Policy and Procedures Handbook. There were hundreds of pages, I read every page. During my prison stay, next to my Bible, reading that book proved to be one of the most nutritious things I partook of, as it proved to be exactly what I used to get out prison 2 years early on a 5-year sentence. As a result, I was able to spend the remainder of that time in a program with my son, but that’s a whole other podcast for a later date. I continued to eat the whole time there, through programming, the library, vocations offered, church services, yard time, and anything else that was available to me. I learned so much so fast, and I didn’t stop and spend a lot of time concerning myself with things I couldn’t change; for instance, questioning how I got there or what everyone else’s program or problems were. If I was asked for prayer, teaching, guidance, or help (which was a lot of the time) I gave it freely. My whole time behind bars and in the CPMP (community prisoner mother program,) I chowed down, baby. So, if you’re about to be locked up, or currently locked up, that’s how I want you to eat.
When I got out, I continued to eat well and eat fast. I learned all about what was expected of me and my parole. I didn’t wait for them to give me their version of how things were going to go. I started asking for immediately what I had read was available to me as a resource. I didn’t wait for them to pop up on me; rather, I called and asked them frequently to come on over and help me out with getting back into society. Needless to say, I hardly ever got a visit. I was taken off parole a lot sooner than I was supposed to. After a couple of appeals, I did an interstate transfer and moved back home to GA from CA to care for my dad. I went to the Dept. of Labor and got bonding for felons and a very good paying job as a reservation agent with a major Hotel chain, which allowed me and my family to stay in 5-star hotels all over the world for little to nothing. I had taken parenting classes that had taught me how to spend time with my kids, and I built personal relationships with my family 100 times stronger than before. I hung out in the library and book-stores; and enhanced my technical skills to a very high level following my vocational training from in prison. These are just some of the ways I did it, and you can do it too. Some people think I’m cheap, frugal, or hustling but I’m actually what some would call a “minimalist”. I actually use the least possible of anything to get the most out of it or exactly what I need. I don’t have a lot of things in my life that I don’t love or enjoy or use often. I don’t spend a bunch of money for things I need; especially learning. To be more specific, here’s a few ways you can chow down:
• Utilize the internet and google as a starting point for most things
• Don’t underestimate your public library and its resources still available to you
• Hang out in bookstores. They have coffee and very comfortable chairs, as well as very helpful staff members.
• Don’t be afraid of government, even though they are the ones who housed you; they have a lot of resources for you to utilize. Go straight into any Dept. of Labor, Welfare, any Legal Aid, any city, county, state or Federal office, and ask for whatever help you need; especially career centers and rehab centers
• Join Facebook groups and meetups online
• Utilize churches and community agencies to become a part of the community and learn from them
• And of course, visit my website, listen to my podcasts and so many others that are truly waiting to help you
These are just a few of the ways you can do it. There are many many others. Just keep looking, keep learning, and keep growing. Lastly, the reason I want you eat fast, is nothing like the reasons jails and prisons want you to. Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against you; 76% of all inmates end up back in jail within 5 years. American correctional facilities are known for high recidivism rates. The Marshall Project conducted a three-month survey of state corrections departments, finding more than 61,250 technical parole violators in 42 state prison systems as of early 2017. These are the inmates who are currently locked up for breaking a rule of parole, rather than parolees who have been convicted of a new crime. This number does not include those in county and local jails where thousands more are likely held. Time is not on your side. This comes down to how you approach incarceration. The system needs to treat prisoners as individuals who need counseling, resources, and preparation for the outside world — not as bad people who deserve punishment. The inmates need to stop following the crowd or the norm and take more advantage of what you do have at your disposal. If more jails and prisons ran like they should, and if I and others keep doing what we are called to do, continuing to share and teach and learn from each other, I believe we could bring these numbers down. I beat the odds. If it happened for me, it could happen for you.
So, I’m saying to you today, “Chow Time, Hurry up and eat” How: Chow down – eat fast. What I want you to eat: Knowledge. The way: To eat up informally means to like something so much that you want to hear or see more. So, Eat Up my friends, EAT UP! And Until next time, thanks for joining me here. where we “Face Forward, and Move Forward”
|Posted on April 20, 2018 at 9:25 PM||comments (0)|
COUNT TIME COUNT TIME
STAND UP AND BE COUNTED
Well hello my forward facers. I’m suuuuper excited! So welcome to my official very first podcast. Originally, I was going to have this one be where I tell you about me and my business, but then I figured that there would be no need since all that’s on my website. I would much rather just jump right in and give some real-life solutions to some real-life issues. So, here’s what we’re going to talk about. In jail or prison, the term count time is meant for several reasons. One for the facility to count and keep track of all the inmates and make sure no one is missing. Two, the Census Bureau counts prisoners as residing at their place of incarceration to determine the relative populations of the states for congressional reappointment. Three, for local legislative reappointment, and determining funding for federal grants that are based on population or demographics. And lastly the reason we all know--to degrade, harass, and make inmates irritated and uncomfortable. I’m going to tell you how to, from this day forward, stand up, and REALLY be counted.
So, lets jump in. So, during in an official count every prisoner is required to return to their cell or bunk area, stand, and be counted. These counts happen 3 -4 times a day and at various inconvenient times. However, after a while you can get use to it, and you try to just work it into your schedule. Sometimes there are emergency counts that are unplanned.
Next, I mentioned the counts pertaining to the Census. These counts are not stand-up counts, and usually require each prisoner in their housing unit to be noted as in the housing unit and requires you, the inmate, to briefly go to your bunk or cell area and wait for the CO to mark you as being present. The point of the census count is to ensure prisoners who have jobs or are supposed to be in school are where they should be. If the census count is requiring an account of all prisoners, those not in school or job assignments will be locked in their cell while all prisoners are counted. This is known as a “lockdown” but that’s a whole other episode that we’ll get to later.
I also mentioned legislative purposes. Briefly this means, by law legislative districts and voting districts must be of equal size. Where the conflict comes in is whether prisoners should be counted, especially if the facility houses lifers or those sentenced to death; thereby, never having an opportunity to vote. These counts are done on paper after the official counts have been tallied to provide detailed counts of prison populations to help states and localities decide on their own whether to exclude inmates in drawing up boundaries of legislative and other voting districts.
I know, pretty interesting huh? To think all this is going on behind the scenes when all you really see is the last reason that I talked about, which is the reason that’s unfortunately the reality of a day in the life of an inmate. Sometimes guards have a lot going on in their personal relationships, such as being powerless or some form of abuser, their partner may be a narcissist, or wields power over them, attempts to exert influence in indirect or passive-aggressive ways, such as withholding. Sometimes guards have financial issues. The average yearly salary for a correctional officer in the state of GA is only $21,000 to $28,000 a year. The physical requirements are something you probably never really considered because of the intimidating body language they walk around with. Did you know they must do 8 push-ups, and 16 sit-ups in a minute, and a 13-minute mile, and they must have good hearing and good vision. No one considers the intellectual stress, as they usually must have obtained an associates degree within 5 years and a bachelor’s degree within 10 years. The only real guidance they have are the pastoral counseling provided to them if asked for by chaplains. So once you really take a look at everything, its really easy to see why some of the guards could easily come to a job where they have what they perceive as superiority over others; they control the movements and freedoms of others; and perhaps it’s a place where they can feel in control, physically strong, at a financial advantage, and at an educational advantage over the you, the inmate. So, the next time you feel yourself getting angry or irritated at the thought of count time, whether you’re incarcerated now, or thinking back, I want you to just consider its probably not about you at all, as much as it is probably about them. I don’t want to miss the group of officers that just come and do this part of their job, simply as, this is part of the job. They do their count and move on.
So now I want to tell you how to put all this behind you and “REALLY” stand up and be counted. And it starts with not worrying about how others count you and start concerning yourself with how you count you. And you have to count yourself as number one. When I first got out of prison I was worried about counting as a mom, would my kids ever see me the same? Would I ever really count as a woman in society or would I just be an ex- felon in their eyes? I was counting the few dollars I had and how was I going to make it on that. My dad was aging fast and dealing with severe health issues and I was counting the days to get back to care for him and my family. And the counting goes on and on and on. Trust me, I know. Then all of the sudden, it hit me! I remembered the greatest commandment. “Love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. And love your neighbor as you love yourself.” I knew how to love God with all, but guess what? It was that second half-- love myself! Did I really know how to do that? No, not if I was counting all these other things first. So, I started putting myself first. So, if you truly want to stand up and be counted. You stand up and put yourself first. The way you do this is to stop and look at where in your life someone or something is being counted before you and write it down. You need to really take the time to make a list. Write it down! If you have the least amount of time in your schedule, then you’re not first. If it is work first, then write that. If it’s your partner who comes first, then write that, and if it’s the kids schedule, or the television, or Facebook, or sleeping, or whatever it is-- write it down, then look at it. Then one week or one month or whatever time it takes, make the change. Write down what the change could be, and how you can change it.
My Day What I could change How I can change it How It counts me first
12 hrs. to, during, and from work less hours dedicated to work Get a closer job eliminating the drive I’m less stressed. Get stronger emotionally
5 hrs. of sleep get a least 7-8 hours of sleep Turn off the TV and go to bed earlier I’m well rested. I become healthier
3 hrs. of tv watch less tv, maybe read limit tv to two hours I gain knowledge from reading something beneficial
2 hr. with family spend more time with my loved ones used that time I saved from less tv I grow in my relationships and have more happiness
2 hrs. getting ready for work and bed spend less time getting ready for work Lay out my clothes the night before I become more organized and peaceful
So, lets just briefly recap. We talked about the reason the facility is counting you, which is to account for all inmates being there in the facility. The reason for the count is also for census numbers to capture the numbers of individuals in programs and school, so that they can continue to receive funding, for legislation to capture the number of people in a community for voting and political purpose, and unfortunately for some individuals to feel better about themselves at your expense; and of course for some CO’s its just part of the job.
So, ladies, my question is, Who Counts? Yes, you have to do the work. Don’t just think about it, don’t just write it down, but do it. No matter how long it takes. Make the changes little by little. I promise, if you stand up and count yourself first. YOU WILL STAND UP AND BE COUNTED! That’s exactly what I did. Until next time, thanks for joining me here. where we “Face Forward, and Move Forward”