3 Jan 05

Recreation – headstand nearly banned

I get two hours of recreation each day. The rec schedule runs for two weeks and starts over again. Here are the starting times:

Week 1 Week 2
Sunday 4.30 pm 8.45 am
Monday 6.30 am 4.30 pm
Tuesday 1.00 pm 6.30 am
Wednesday 8.15 am 1.00 pm
Thursday 4.30 pm 8.45 am
Friday 1.00 pm 6.30 am
Saturday 6.30 am 1.00 pm

One-hundred inmates are allowed to go to the rec field together – in our case Building 2, pods C and D – but out of the one hundred, only about one third of them actually attend, and that fraction is much smaller for the 6.30 am rec. I’ve been going to rec two or three times a week, usually when it is offered in the afternoon or the late morning.

The rec area consists of a large field surrounded by a running track. Chain-link fencing and razor wire protect the perimeter. Overlooking the rec field is the gun tower – it was recently featured on the news after two inmates seized control and held a male and female guard hostage. The female was repeatedly raped. Looking at the tower you can usually see a guard toting an AR15 assault rifle or a pump-action shotgun. The rec field contains two basketball courts, a volleyball court, workout stations for isometric exercises, and six picnic tables. Three of the picnic tables have covers that enable inmates to chat or play chess in the shade. There are also eight charge-per-call telephones, a urinal and a drinking fountain. I am told that the average price of a fifteen-minute collect call to Phoenix is three dollars.

Most of the inmates at rec participate in team sports or mob around the picnic tables. I usually find a secluded area of grass where I can perform yoga.

During the last rec session, I had my first run-in with a guard. While doing a headstand, I heard a female voice yell from the gun tower, “Stop doing headstands!” I was wondering whether she was serious or not, when she repeated, “Stop doing headstands or else I’ll throw you off the field!” The inmates bacame upset and one shouted, “Are you gonna ban push-ups next?”

At the opposite end of the rec field stood the Assistant Deputy Warden, known as the ADW. She is second in command of this unit. My Buddhist friend Gizmo told the ADW that the guard who had stopped my headstand had violated my freedom of religious expression. A guard, Officer Noah, verified that my religious preference was Hinduism and the ADW gave me permission to keep doing headstands. The female guard was instructed not to stop me again.

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Anonymous said...

Jon, It’s sad that people don’t realise the benefits of Yoga, not only as an exercise for the body but for its calming influence on the mind. Inmates should be encouraged to practise yoga to relieve their stress. I’m glad that you will be allowed to continue with your yoga, and that there was someone there who understood.
Keep up the headstands, they will cleanse your brain.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jon - Been reading your blog for the last 6 months but never got around to mailing you. The conditions you have suffered in the previous jails have sickened me, and it makes you question whether a person is sent to prison 'as punsishment' or 'for punishment'. The good ole USA is now in its early days of a new christian empire, I find it almost nationalistic in comparison and very scary. At least with blogs like yours it is plain to see that people are suffering in modern day gulags in the land of the free. A few questions please, when are you to be released?, will you be coming straight back to the uk when you do? and , what are your intentions for the future?
Is their anything I can send you, a small gift, book etc, it would be my pleasure.
Greg Bell