Entry 4: Prison levels

Quarantine is a waypoint for prisoners. We are assessed mentally and medically. That information is compiled along with the length of our sentence, the crimes we committed, and our behavior over the thirty to sixty days spent here.

Once calculated, we’re assigned to one of five prison levels, or a bootcamp. I will outline what I’ve learned about each.

Boot Camp:

Boot camp is the ultimate hope for inmates. You qualify with any sentence less than three years, along with it being your first time to prison. Being that it is a ninety day program, from the moment of your arrest until you return home can be as little as six months.

It would be a stretch for me to make it. I would accept if offered, but I might be the only inmate uninterested.

My emotions are swirling.

If I am to live a healthy, crime-free life when released, I need time to reset and to cool off; like years worth.

Level One:

Level one prisons are for inmates with three years or less, or those who transfer down from a higher level facility.

The supposed advantages are more rec-time, more programs, and most important, if you do your time without problems, your parole is more probable.

The downside is most inmates are young and arrive with an expectation of prison. Petty fights, theft, and annoying loudness are a way of life.

You sleep in eight man cubicles with only a partition separating you from adjoining pods, which adds to the potential for problems.

Level Two:

Level two prisons are for inmates with sentences above three, but less than seven years, those with less than three who have proven themselves unruly, or those who have worked their way down from a higher level with good behavior.

You will find many people doing life in a level two. Some inmates prefer these due to the two man rooms. Inmates are assigned a key, giving them a greater sense of control and the ability to find occasional privacy.

There is a higher gang presence at a level two.

There are fights, some stabbings, but it’s a more respectful environment.

This is where I hope to go.

(There are no level three prisons. Don’t ask me why.)

Level Four:

Level four prisons are for those people sentenced to more than seven years or those who have been disciplined from lower levels. Due to the average age and violence factor, life in level four is cautious. Time out of your cell is limited. People are respectful and distant. There are fights. There are stabbings, but most transgressions are capital offenses. People stab the neck, not the back. Rape is a method of payment for collecting debts.

When you gamble or borrow without adequate currency in your cell, it is called borrowing on ass (I assume most who apply for these loans never read the fine print).

There is a story I heard from a trusted cellmate of a gregarious prisoner who liked to laugh and kick-it with a variety of groups. He borrowed, or lost, thirty dollars to a man involved in an organization and assured them his wife would pay within the week.

She was three days late. And in that time, he was repeatedly raped by six men.

He never recovered mentally. He became what is known as a bug. Bugs cover a wide variety of the mentally unfit. They jerk their heads like birds when looking around. Their hands are always flexing and intertwining. They pat their scalps as they tell stories about Earth being inhabited by twelve thousand species of alien.

It was rumored the accosted man was breaking bars of Irish Spring, shaping them, and inserting them into his anus.

A few weeks later, the doctor found thirty-seven half-bars of soap lining his colon.

In prison, it’s best to limit your circle of friends.

Inmates at level fours utilize many formidable shanks. A lock-in-the-sock to the face is tantamount to a punch in the mouth at a level one. A gruesome method, which I hear is often employed, is a shank forged from fiberglass. An inmate will sneak handfuls of the pink material and spend days pressing it until the point is sharp and the body sturdy. Once stabbed into an enemy (almost always the neck), it is broken with a flick of the wrist, leaving the blade buried. When a victim frantically attempts to dig it out, they find all they can grasp are spindling threads.

Gang presence is high in a level four. If you’re in one, you are awarded a level of safety, but a guarantee of violence, for no one rides free, and all obey the hierarchy.

Level Five:

Level fives are reserved for inmates who specialize in violence and dominance. Very few men are sent to a level five from court. That distinction is usually earned through deplorable acts of villainy. In Michigan, level five prisons stay at full capacity.

You only leave your cell for showers and the process is complicated. A metal cage is attached to the outside of your cell. When your door is opened, you step inside and are secured by the wrists and ankles. Once in, they will close the door, strap a harness around your neck, untie your arms and allow you two minutes of cold water from a bladder to cleanse yourself.

With my current mindset, I imagine allowing a young man to read this would help steer him straight, but thinking back to my teenage years (which you should hear about), I doubt it would do much good.

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