19 Feb 04

Deep Shit

The toilet I sleep next to is full of sewage. We've had no running water for three days. Yesterday, I knew we were in trouble when the mound in our steel throne peaked above sea level.

Inmates often display remarkable ingenuity during difficult occasions and this crisis has resulted in a number of my neighbours defecating in the plastic bags the mouldy breakfast bread is served in. For hours they kept those bags in their cells, then disposed of them downstairs when allowed out for showers. As I write, inmates brandishing plastic bags are going from cell door to door proudly displaying their accomplishments.

The whole building reeks like a giant Portaloo. Putting a towel over the toilet in our tiny cell offers little reprieve. My neighbour, Eduardo, is suffering diarrhoea from the rotten chow. I can't imagine how bad his cell stinks.

I am hearing that the local Health Department has been contacted. Hopefully they will come to our rescue soon.

I received a card from Claudia saying she is going to stick with me no matter what happens. Through her brother, Jay, I was able to coordinate a delivery of roses for her on Valentine's Day.

20 Feb 04

My cellmate couldn't hold his in any longer. He pinched his nose and lifted the towel from the toilet. Repulsed by the mound, he said, "There's way too much crap to crap on. I'm gonna use a bag." So as jail etiquette demands in these situations, I rolled over on my bunk and faced the wall. I heard something hit the rim of the seatless toilet, and him say, "Damn! I missed some! " When he was done, he put the finished product by the door and the stink doubled. He had no water to clean the errant piece off the toilet, so it remained forming a crustation on the rim. We were hoping to be allowed out to dispose of the bag, until a guard announced, "There will be no one coming out for showers and phone calls, as we have to get one-hundred-and twenty inmates water from an emergency container!"

The water came back on in stages. In our toilet, its level slowly rose.
“Oh no,” I said. “It’s about to overflow, and we’ll be stuck in here with sewage all over the floor.”
“One of us needs to stick his hand in the crap to let the water through,” my cellmate said. “And you’re the closest.”
The brown soup was threatening to spill from the bowl, so I put a sandwich bag on my hand. "I can’t believe I’m doing this,” I said, plunging my hand into the mound. The mound took the bag from my hand. Almost up to my elbow in sewage, I dug until the water level sank.
“I owe you one, dawg,” my cellmate said.
“It’s your turn next time,” I said.
Because the tap water hadn’t come back on, I couldn't wash my arm. Not wanting to contaminate anything in the cell, I sat on the stool until a guard let us out for showers hours later.

26 Feb 04

At 7am, I awoke to a cockroach tickling the palm of my hand. Like everyone else in the jail except for the staff, it was probably hungry. I flicked it toward the door. It took the hint and headed west.

The excursion of the week was to the Medical Unit for a "general wellness checkup." Four of us were summoned from our pod. At the nurse's desk we were interviewed one after the other:

"I slept with a woman from a trailer park just before I was arrested," said one of my embarrassed neighbours as the nurse diagnosed him with scabies.
Next up was our chow server. I was shocked to overhear that he has had infectious tuberculosis for the duration of his stay.
The third inmate complained that he had gone two days without his seizure medication and as a result was unable to sleep.
When it was my turn, the nurse insisted I should take a TB test. I protested that I had been tested twice already. She looked at my medical history, and snarled, "Well, you'll have to take another test before June, so you might as well have it now."

At least our water is flowing again. Inmates are still trading stories about defecating in plastic bags and urinating in pop bottles. The inmate the media has dubbed the "101 Slayer" boasted he was able to hold his business in for the entire three-day outage. It was also his mum that called the Health Department and got the jail in trouble. Hopefully, our toilets will continue to function normally, at least, until we are moved to the new jail facility, which should be this summer.

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