365 Days Handmade

Making life a better place, one day at a time

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Day 275/365: A Lesson from Neighborhood Kitty

I had just gotten to my office and was sitting at my desk checking email when an alarm went off overhead– literally above my head on the second floor, in the chow hall.  A fight had broken out and it was barely 7:45 AM.

The rest of the day was full of craziness and crises.  I don’t even want to get into it now because it’s better to just leave it behind me and move on to my three-day weekend.

Anyway, when I got home and pulled into the driveway, I saw one of the neighborhood kitties just chilling in our front yard.  That cat had the right idea.



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Day 267/365: Another Day in the Life


This is how I started my morning:  Within half an hour of sitting at my desk, I was handed an inmate request for mental health services.  The inmate clerk who gave it to me said, “He’s waiting outside.  He just wrote it.”  I looked at the form.  It read, “Ergent!  Emergency having problems need to see my doctor ASAP!!!”

Naturally, I had to get him into my office right away and find out the nature of his emergency.  I didn’t know what to expect, but once he started talking, I really had to start thinking about all the different ways to do my job properly.  Because what he was telling me was that, last night, someone took advantage of him in a sexually inappropriate manner, and it wasn’t another inmate.

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Day 254/365: The Friday in which the Cops Order Me to Go Home

At 5:05 this afternoon, I was still at work, sitting at my desk and typing on the computer.  I had planned to leave at 5:30, but the next thing I knew, the door to the office had opened and two of the 3rd watch correctional officers were coming in from the corridor.

“What are you still doing here?” one of them demanded.  “It’s Friday.  You’re five minutes late for happy hour.”

“Go home!” the other one ordered.  “You need to have been gone.  Go on, pack up and get out of here.  I’m watching you.”

I knew these two officers well because I’d worked with them for several years now.  They liked me, and I liked them.  While neither of them were being jerks, they were both telling me what to do in a firm and authoritative manner that basically left no room for argument.  I could see how they would be very effective in handling potentially dangerous inmates.  Two uniformed officers giving me direct orders to call it a day, go home, and start my weekend?  Who was I to argue?


It’s time to start the heel! And that is a quilt that I made last year.

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Day 246/365: How My Day At Work Ended


I had a long day at work, and I was glad to be leaving. Two correctional officers were talking to each other as I walked into the Gate House from the sallyport. I handed my employee ID to the female correctional officer and she glanced at it to make sure that the ID was valid and that I wasn’t an inmate trying to escape. She gave a perfunctory nod and resumed her conversation with the male correctional officer. “She’d just gotten a breast augmentation and came in to work without a bra.”

If I weren’t already headed out the door, I would have lingered to hear the rest of that story.

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Day 237/365: Thankful For My Own Front Door

This morning as I approached the entrance to the Gate House (the first security checkpoint of the prison), I noticed that an inmate was in the process of being released. He was dressed in street clothes and was holding a large plastic bin that clearly held all of his belongings. A correctional officer was directing him to step aside and wait as the transportation van was pulling up. I recognized the inmate as a former inmate clerk who had worked in our program office. I knew that he had been a lifer; I guessed that he’d been found suitable for release by the Board of Parole Hearings and that the governor had not opposed the decision. I wasn’t aware of just how long this particular inmate had been in prison, though, until I walked into the Gate House and overhead two other correctional officers talking about him.

“He’s a B number,” one C.O. said.

“So he’s been down a long time,” the other C.O. remarked. “He’s in for a culture shock. A lot has changed in the world since then.”

I was pretty sure that this former inmate was headed for post-release housing that would assist him in making the transition from prison back into the community. It would have been part of the conditions of his parole. Silently, I wished him well and made my way into the prison for the day.

At the end of my 10-hour shift, I was glad to be coming home to this.


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Day 205/365: Instant Coffee Bottles and Blue Folders

My buddy Lieutenant H is currently serving as the Captain on our yard. That means he is at the top of the administrative chain of command and gets the big office with a nice wide view of the yard. I have frequently stopped by his office to chat, and now that he is the Captain, it’s even more fun to chat with him in the new office.

This afternoon I stopped in to say hello and to check out the activities on the yard. Directly across the office window were several inmates seated on the benches or standing around, talking to each other. I don’t even remember exactly what H and I were initially discussing, but the conversation got around to gang members on the yard. H told me that inmates aren’t allowed to demonstrate any kind of gang signs on the yard, but they find ways to get around it.

“See that guy with the water bottle in his hand? It’s got a red lid,” H pointed out. “He’s flashing his colors. He’s a Blood.”

H scanned the rest of the immediate area. “See that guy there with the blue folder under his arm? He’s a Crip.”

Just then, one of the yard officers happened to walk past the office door. H called for him to come inside the office.

“Hey, B,” H said. “You see that guy over there with the red lid on the plastic bottle? You know him? I was just telling Dr. V here that he’s a Blood.”

Officer B came over to the window to get a better look. He peered at the object in question. “That’s a Sanka coffee container,” he said. “That’s the color of the lid.”

“Okay, well, what about this guy over here with the blue folder?” H asked.

Officer B leaned forward, squinted, and checked it out. “They get those folders from Education. The teachers hand them out. It’s whatever color the teacher gives them.”

I looked at H. He looked at me and shrugged with his hands open in a “What can I say?” gesture.

“Okay,” he said. “I guess I got cynical.”


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Day 197/365: The Day a Surprise Visitor Came to My Group


Every Thursday afternoon, I facilitate a treatment group for inmates who are serving life sentences. There are currently eight members in the group, and we always sit in a circle. Today, the inmate seated directly across from me was talking when I noticed some movement along the top of his shoulder. The movement came from a small lump that had been prominently sitting under his shirt, above his shoulder, for some time since he’d entered the room and group had started. He kept talking, but I’d stopped paying attention because I was focused on what was starting to poke out of his shirt collar, along his neck. It was a little pointy face, covered in white and brown fur.

“Uh, Mr. P–,” I said, openly staring and pointing a finger at his shoulder. “What is that?”

“Oh, that,” he said. He reached into his shirt collar and gently pushed back down what was clearly a small animal. “That’s just my mouse.”

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Day 181/365: My Monday at Work is Tuesday


Nothing much happened at work today, except for a fight that broke out between two inmates on our yard, right below the guard tower.  The officer up in the tower fired off a round to make them stop.  I was in the corridor when the yard officers came through the side door and brought in one of the inmates who’d been involved in the fight.  He was in handcuffs and I only saw his back as they escorted him through, but his right hand was bloody.  I couldn’t tell if it was from his own injuries or the other guy’s, but the blood just didn’t seem real to me.  Maybe it was the bright red color, or the way the program in the building continued as usual, with various staff continuing to work in their offices and the correctional officers so matter-of-fact with escorting the inmate down the hall.  Then again, I kept walking until I got to my own office and carried on with my own paperwork, as well.  Just business as usual inside a prison.

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Day 154/365: Another Good Reason for Chocolate


In the middle of my busy crazy day, one of the office assistants handed me a mental health referral from a sergeant on one of the other yards.  It was marked Urgent, and under the reason for referring the inmate, he had written, “Does not follow directions.  Will not respond to simple questions.”

Because it was “urgent,” I basically had to drop everything else and handle the referral today.  I was familiar with this particular inmate.  He used to be on my caseload, and he had a bad attitude about being in prison—it wasn’t his fault, he shouldn’t have to do the time, it wasn’t fair, everyone was against him, etc.  I suspected that the referral was less about him having any real mental health issues and more a matter of the sergeant not wanting to deal with the inmate any further.  So I called the sergeant’s office and asked that the inmate, Mr. R, be sent to my office on a special pass.

Mr. R showed up within half an hour and was escorted to my office by a correctional officer who stood at the doorway to ensure extra security.  This C.O. was also familiar with Mr. R.  I sensed that part of the reason he stuck around was to send the message that he wouldn’t hesitate to take action if Mr. R tried anything aggressive with me.

“Look,” I said.  “The reason you’re here is that I received a referral from the sergeant saying you wouldn’t follow directions or respond to simple questions.  I’m just evaluating you to make sure you’re not having any mental health problems.”  We both knew that there was no reason for him to even really be there.

“Man,” Mr. R said.  He slumped in the seat and stared at the floor sullenly.  “I don’t have no mental health problems.  I didn’t want to answer their stupid-ass questions.”

“How did it come to this?” I asked, waving the referral slip to draw his attention to it.

Mr. R looked up and rolled his eyes.  “Man.  It started from this morning.  I kicked this milk crate that was on the ground.  They told me to pick it up.  I told them no, it was already on the ground, why should I pick it up?  They told me to pick it up.  I said, if you want me to pick it up, then you give me some gloves and I’ll pick it up.  And then next thing I know, they got me in the sergeant’s office, and he be asking some stupid-ass questions.”

“Okay,” I said.  I’d heard enough to know that A) this wasn’t an urgent referral, and B) I’d just lost an hour of my day, what with finishing the interview and then having to type up a detailed report of my rationale for clearing this inmate to return to the yard.

Luckily I had some chocolate stashed in my desk drawer, because yesterday’s cake was already gone.

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Day 151/365: Sock #2 of the Color #25 Pair

During the week, my job at the prison involves a lot of talking and social interaction with inmate-patients, custody (including yard officers, tier officers, sergeants, lieutenants, and the captain), psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, teachers, and psych techs, to name a few.  I’m also at work four days a week for 10-hour days, so when my three-day weekend comes, I’m happy not to do any socializing or talking.  With Sean on the East Coast doing a motorcycle trip with his dad (they’re visiting with family in Susquehanna right now), I pretty much have been happily keeping to myself, mostly parked on the couch with Netflix and alternating between knitting a sock and crocheting more rows on the Cherry Cola afghan.  The only time I left the house today was to go run my mile for the summer run streak.  If you don’t count texting and emails, I did not speak to a single person today.  And I am perfectly okay with that.