07 Nov 04

The Rain Room Revisited

Aunty Ann had nightmares after reading the blog that described the showers at the Madison Street jail. ('Wankers' 06 May 04). Perhaps Aunty Ann should't read on.

On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings we are offered showers. After the breakfast chow is served the officer grunts,“Showers?”
“Two for showers,” is my standard reply. The same officer will then return at some random time between 7.30 and 9.30 am, and wake us up to take us to the showers. The officer opens the trap whilst we put on our flip-flops and orange jumpsuits, and grab our towels and soap. Individually, Penguin and I back up to the cell door and the guard handcuffs us through the trap. The door is unlocked and the officer yells, “Cell 27!” The guard in the control tower presses a button and our door slides open. One of us is instructed to go to the upper shower and the other to the lower one.

Upon arriving at one of the cells containing a shower, I wait outside until the guard in the control tower presses the button that opens the door. When it is open I step inside and the door slides shut. I am then unhandcuffed through the trap and handed a razor. The cell is tiny, dingy and dimly lit. There is no mirror to look at whilst shaving. I undress and hang my clothes upon a steel hanger that is screwed to the wall. I always inspect the floor and walls to see if there are any messes that need to be avoided. The lower shower drains much better than the upper one, so the amount of hair matted with semen is usually lower downstairs. Some semen is usually observable on the floors and walls of both showers.

A button activates the shower. The water runs at a comfortable temperature for around ten minutes. This provides enough time for a thorough soaping and a blind shaving session. It takes a few months to master shaving without being able to observe yourself. I have to feel my face to determine where the stubble is. I don't shave my head because I'm afraid of cutting my ears off. One time Penguin returned with a bleeding ear. On another occasion I sliced my Adam’s apple.

When the water stops we are at the mercy of the guards as to how soon they will return us to our cell. The average wait is 15 minutes, but there have been some occasions when Penguin and I were left in the showers for up to two hours. When left in the shower I often do the hula-hula yoga pose while looking at the black mould on the walls, and the tiny grey flies that seem to hop rather than fly. Some inmates get hysterical after being left inside there. Those that yell and bang on the door usually have their stays extended.

Before releasing us from the showers, the guards examine our razors to ensure that we have not extracted blades to make weapons. After this inspection we are handcuffed through the traps. The doors slide open and as we trudge back to our cell inmates taunt us:
“Did you shave your ass?”
“Did you step on my water babies?”
“We know what kind of yoga you’re doing in there!”
“Did you see my dead kids?”
“Did you find your anal G-spot?”

Upon returning to our cell we are released from our handcuffs through the trap.

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Anonymous said...

I just got through reading the latest blog from Jon, I find them both amusing and disturbing at the same time. I don't know if it's his dry English humour or what but it certainly makes you think! I forwarded the link on to one of the radio stations here, maybe other local people here should know about this. I made a note of his new address and I'll drop him a line although I gather his mail box is pretty full these days.
Lorraine AZ

Anonymous said...

I was in Florence on a business trip recently and discovered that there are a large number of Arizonans there as students. I dutifully told them about how much of a reckless fool Sheriff Joe is and unfortunately their ignorance was great – the view they seemed to take was that prisoners are prisoners therefore they really aren’t concerned about how they are treated. The only policy of his that they had heard of was that of making prisoners work in ‘tent cities’. It seems that PR stunts that bolster the ‘hard man on crime’ image is the only publicity that gets through to them. I was ardent in telling them to vote against him though so hopefully next time they hear of Sheriff Joe they’ll do some research before they pass judgement on his policies…

From Jamie (Sheffield, UK)

Anonymous said...

Jon, Hope all is well; I have enjoyed (is that the right word when you're so clearly in terrible conditions) your blog ever since it was in the Guardian. I can't believe the terrible conditions you've had to endure and it's a testament to your human spirit that you've survived with such good humour. Reading your blog certainly puts any humdrum complaints I may have about my life in perspective and also makes you realise how unfair such a harsh penal system is. I live in a very pleasant part of England and am a history teacher and I've recommended your blog to students of mine who seem to think injustice and horrible things never occur in supposed democratic and free countries. Remember what we do now echoes in eternity! (As it's from your favourite film I thought I'd include a quote)
Keep up your spirits