Remember I told you about the reason for Monday’s modified program? We had another modified program today. This time, somebody dropped a kite* saying that a certain correctional officer, along with my buddy the lieutenant, were going to be targeted for an assault. So the yard was recalled and no inmates were allowed outside except for the ones who had medical and mental health appointments. In the meantime, custody had to initiate an investigation, interview possible suspects, and determine the seriousness of the situation.
This sort of thing is not an unusual occurrence. With a modified program, I’m still able to see my line for the day, because the inmates are allowed to come out for their priority ducats. With a hard lockdown, though, none of them are able to leave the cell. When that happens, you either A) reschedule their appointments, thus doubling the number of patients you’ve got to see the next day, or B) go pay a house call. We call it doing a cellside. That means going into a living unit that houses 300 potentially dangerous convicted felons, walking down a long corridor in which a hundred pair of eyes are watching you through their wickets as you pass, and knocking on the door of your patient to conduct a brief mental health interview in the most discreet way possible.
The last time I did cellsides was in September, when a race riot on the yard resulted in lockdown for a week. Usually, I don’t mind conducting cellsides, because the inmates are all locked in and I’m pretty safe. This time, though, I got a bit of a surprise. I’d gotten the okay from the tier officer, made my way down the corridor, knocked on my patient’s door, and heard him climb off his bunk. I listened to him put on some clothes and shuffle his way over. He said, “Hang on, Doc.” I heard more noises, some fumbling around, a clicking sound– and then I realized, he’d been unlocking his cell door from the inside, and now he was sliding it open to greet me.
I would end the story here, but I know some people reading this would be more than a little disturbed by that, so I’ll tell you also that the facility where I work is probably the only one in the state where the inmates have keys to let themselves in and out of their cells**, and sure, this guy was doing a life sentence for murder, but really, he’d already served over thirty years in prison and I felt pretty certain that he wasn’t going to kill me.
* kite: prison lingo for a note or letter; a form of written communication
** There is a master switch that keeps them all locked in at certain times; it just happened that this time was not one of them.