“Business is business, business must grow,
regardless of crummies in tummies, you know.” – The Once-ler
regardless of crummies in tummies, you know.” – The Once-ler
Profit at the factory is determined by how much meat can be sold. Ergo, the more meat, the greater the monetary reward. It is a simple matter of numbers, of weight, and of cost effectiveness. The longer it takes for a cow to grow, the longer it takes to be slaughtered and packaged.
The highlight of each day here at the York County Detention Center is a half-pint of 2% reduced fat milk from Borden. That’s right, Borden – a name brand! For breakfast this Sunday morning we have a generous eight ounce portion of plain oatmeal, four ounces of hash browns, four ounces of chopped up egg patty, and a biscuit.
A cow’s natural rate of growth is unacceptable for the bottom line. We live – thank God! – in the modern age, an enlightened age of commerce in which the company that can plug into the biggest market will realize profits greater than any Persian king of old could dream of. We must, therefore, find a way to speed up the fattening process.
Lunch is about three ounces of beans – mostly watery bean juice – with a slice of mystery meat we believe to be bologna. With every lunch and dinner the inmates are given bread and a bread-based dessert: today is cornbread and a cookie. And with every lunch and dinner we are given some totally unidentifiable juice that can only be called “Jail juice,” which one drinks partly because he hopes beyond hope that there may be some sort of vitamin in it, and partly because one can only stand to drink so much instant coffee.
So instead of letting them roam around some idyllic farm to grow and fatten like the unprofitable gods of Nature intended, we will feed them a steady diet of steroids & sweet feed. The high end produces will sell their meat at $10 a pound, and they will be sure to label it “grass-fed beef.” No one much cares what the other, less fortunate cattle are eating, so long as ground beef remains about $4 a pound.
Sunday dinner is one hot dog that the wise will chop up with their spoons to mix into the six ounces of mashed potatoes that have been poured out of a box and mixed with water. We are also graciously given four ounces of cabbage, bread, and a cookie, as well as our one cup of jail juice.
Now, profit for a county jail is a bit different: it is not the volume of meat sold that turns a profit but the volume of the meat housed. The greater the number of bodies incarcerated, the greater the amount of money given to the jail. And if there is one thing that can be said in favor of the York County Detention Center, it is that YCDC is a money-making machine.
We wake up Monday morning to stand by our doors – all 48 of us – awaiting our feeding like good farm animals. And boy is that first touch of brand name 2% reduced fat milk to your lips worth the wait! Along with our milk we have a slice of bologna that verifies that what we had for lunch yesterday was not bologna at all. God only knows what that was, and no inmate dares ask. Eight ounces of grits, three ounces of hashbrowns, and a biscuit complete our cost-effective meal.
After a while, the starvation starts to catch up with you. Malnutrition sets in, and the inmate is torn between his hunger and his disgust for what is laid before him to satiate that hunger. Then again, “torn” is the wrong word to use, as the only true passionate sentiment one holds is a smoldering hatred of the System and its agents. All hunger for food becomes grey, one’s longing for pleasures is dulled, and even one’s home becomes a far-distant place covered in fog. All that remains is a very personal animosity towards every cop, bureaucrat, lawyer, and judge upholding this Machine. You eat what you can.
For lunch we have some kind of “chicken stuff” over six ounces of undercooked rice. We also have a delicious four ounces of peas and corn, which the inmates mix with the rice and “chicken stuff” to fool themselves into thinking that they actually have a ten ounce entrée. Add two slices of bread and a cookie, and it is time to go back to our pens.
When it comes to turning a profit at the York County Detention Center, Chief John Hicks is an absolute visionary. The formula for profit in the beef industry is to fatten the cow as quickly as possible through artificial means and to sell as much meat at as high a price as the market will allow. At the jail, the formula for profit is to sell food at a high a price as possible to the very inmates you are starving.
Dinner is a slice of bologna – twice in one day! – with eight ounces of beans, three ounces of carrots, a biscuit, and a cookie. Wash that down with a cup of jail juice, and that’s a meal to write home about.
Chief John Hicks, the Reader surely knows, is the selfsame head of YCBC who has authorized his employees to open the inmates’ legal mail and deliver it to the prosecutor. He has authorized this on three different occasions in my own case and has even had the temerity to blame me for his corrupt practices. Not that he has any worry about being called to account for his illegal conduct: the prosecutors are fully invested in this scandal and have profited by it greatly. No one will be prosecuting Chief John Hicks in this good ol’ boy county any time soon, that’s for sure.
We awake Tuesday morning to find that Chief Hicks has outdone himself again. He has substituted the name brand Borden milk for the generic DairyPure, thus saving a whole truckload of other peoples’ money. We are also given nothing but eight ounces of oatmeal with gravy and a biscuit, causing certain of the inmates to believe that the jail must be running out of food. But these poor, simple animals just don’t understand the role of cost-effectiveness in profit. Only Chief Hicks knows that running your jail like Andersonville will get you elected Sheriff one day.
If Chief Hicks will not be prosecuted for his brazen, illegal conduct for delivering inmates’ mail to prosecutors, then he certainly won’t be prosecuted for promoting drug dealing at his jail. After all, it’s “policy.” As long as something can be explained away as “policy,” whether in the inmate handbook (we do not receive paper copies of this – a cost-cutting measure, you understand) or a memo to jail staff, the consequences of that policyare immaterial.
Now lunch today is a treat. We gratefully receive six ounces of rice topped with gravy, and the gravy has peas and corn in it! A cookie, two slices of bread, and a cup of jail juice, and you’ve got a whole jailful of happy campers.
Policy, you understand, drives profits. Without policy, we are no more than savages. Hell, even apes have “rules.” But policy is what allows us to have successful bureaucratic organizations in civilized society. And so, if there is a policy of opening legal mail and delivering it to the Office of the Solicitor, then who dares complain when innocent men are convicted of crimes they did not commit? Without policy – clearly outlined in the inmate handbook, mind you – things would be much, much worse. After all, the mail system could become inefficient; it could waste valuable officer’s time; it could, God forbid, even require a new hire! No one in their right mind would value civil rights over efficiency – and how much more important than those is policy?
Beans two dinners in a row, only tonight we have six ounces instead of eight. That’s okay, though, because we also get two halves of a hot dog that we can cut up with our spoons to mix with the beans. We also get a packet of ketchup and a packet of mustard. With so much flavor in a single meal, who could complain? Two slices of bread, a cookie, and jail juice.
If policy, then is so important to trump the constitutional right to privileged communications with attorneys, then surely it trumps some meth-head’s so-called “human right” to eat food. After all, innocent men are never incarcerated in York County: if you don’t like the politicians at CBC, don’t get arrested, scumbag. What do you think this is, Medieval England, in which the Sheriff of Nottingham concerns himself with profit at the expense of innocent men? Perish the thought! You are subject to these policies because you did somethingwrong; we don’t need a trial to tell us that. So if you don’t like starving, being treated like farm animals, and watching the staff purge their asses with the Constitution, then don’t come to jail!
A slice of bologna, rotten and burned, is the centerpiece of Wednesday’s breakfast. At least we have Borden milk again. Eight ounces of instant grits, two ounces of hashbrowns, two slices of bread. If I ate bread, I would feel cheated at not getting a biscuit; the others sure feel that way.
Everyone knows the game here: you are starved so that you will purchase food from commissary. Just as a movie-goer is prohibited from bringing Skittles and Snickers into the theatre, so are inmates prohibited from trading food with each other. The theatre profits from the sale of popcorn and snacks, and the jail profits from selling food to the inmates. Policy; therefore, is to starve the inmates, prevent them from trading food, and force them to purchase food in order to supplement their diets.
Another slice of bologna. At least this one isn’t rotten and burned, just slimy. Edible. Eight ounces of mashed potatoes. Three ounces of mixed vegetables. Two slices of bread. Cookie. Jail juice.
Whether they are poor and cannot purchase commissary, or as in my case, their religious diets are not recognized, or they cannot otherwise keep from starvation, the inmates are forced to trade food or to steal food. Either of these actions – if you are caught – will result in the inmate being locked down in his room. Neither is this a rare occasion. The starvation at YCBC is so pervasive a problem that the jail staff watch the inmates on camera at every meal. When I first came to General Population from isolation and “bought” a cup of coffee on credit from another inmate, he threw it onto a chair looking away from me, as though he were selling meth at a public park. I thought this was strange – until I came to realize the game here.
Dinner: Eight ounces mashed potatoes. Four ounces sloppy joes. Four ounces cabbage. Two slices of bread. Cookie.
As soon as the cameras catch you trading food or stealing an unclaimed tray, you are sent to your cell. As with all things in York County, you are guilty until proven innocent. When the corrections officer gets around to talking with the inmate, it is to initiate the farcical process of “negotiating for days”; which is to say that the inmate is expected to beg for two or three days of confinement as opposed to the maximum of five. Now, for a negotiation to take place, both sides must have some kind of bargaining power. Obviously the inmates have no such thing. So the “negotiation” becomes, in fact, a show of contrition by the inmate for daring to avoid starvation, and a magnanimous display of charity by the Sergeant in not imposing the maximum penalty.
Thursday morning’s breakfast: The generic DairyPure milk again. What a rollercoaster – at least it would be if anyone cared any more. Three ounces of potatoes. One ounce of a solidified lump of mystery meat we affectionately call “moon rock.” Biscuit.
For my own part, I refused to negotiate when placed on lockdown. After all, I had an absolute defense of duress: I have lost at least ten pounds (probably closer to twenty, but they have refused to weigh me since January 23rd without an order from a court or an outside doctor) since my incarceration since Chief Hicks himself has determined that my religious diet is not legitimate. And why wouldn’t he? A man who fears no prosecutor or judge in this good ol’ boy county, who delivers inmates’ legal mail to the prosecutors with absolute impunity, whose policies result in starvation and lawlessness – why would he not feel untouchable enough to violate someone’s religious rights, as well?
From commissary I order peanut butter, sausage, fish, and coffee every week. Unlike those on the Kosher diet, I am expected to pay to maintain my religious practices.
My defense of duress and my religious diet being “above [the Sergeant’s] pay grade,” he graciously gave me three days of lockdown instead of the maximum of five days for my refusal to negotiate – but only because it was my first write-up. My infraction for trading food is written up as “Unauthorized Sales, Purchase, or Exchanges” my “administrative separation” categorized as “THREAT TO ORDERLY OPERATION OR SECURITY OF FACILITY.” To further pad this absurd process with C.Y.A. legalese, the officer makes sure to note that “All actions [i.e. my lockdown] were taken for the safety and security of facility, staff, and inmates.” No mention of my religious objections, my defense of duress, my egregious weight loss, – just a bunch of boilerplate legal language to cover the profit scheme of the administration and make the food-trading inmate look like a terrorist – which of course you are, if you dare to question the sanctity, majesty, and awesome might of the System.
Atop the six ounces of white rice is a mixture of broccoli stems and mystery meat. Three ounces peas. Cornbread. Cake. Jail juice.
Never fear if you’re Jewish, though! There’s the Kosher diet for you! Not Jewish? Not a problem. Just “convert” to Judaism on the computer kiosk – super convenient! – and you, too, can get a Kosher tray! No chopped up patties of artificial eggs taken from plastic: you get real eggs. You also get peanut butter. And fruit. And most important of all: real beef! No mystery meat moon rock for you who have bent the knee and converted! And so it is that half the block has “converted” to receive the only recognized religious diet – and all the goyim know the superiority of Kosher.
Beans and chili for dinner. An amazing ten ounces. This is balanced by the insulting one ounce of carrots. Cornbread. Cake. Jail juice.
There is no “rec” for your first forty-eight hours of lockdown: no calls to your family or your attorneys, no ability to write messages or do what they call “legal research,” no way to file a grievance, and certainly no opportunity whatsoever to challenge or appeal the lockdown itself. And so I have learned the hard way what all inmates know. Don’t get caught. The jail and its “policies” breed dishonesty, underhandedness, and lawlessness. The inmates who cannot afford commissary or who do not wish to risk lockdown for trading food, it is easier to sell their prescribed medications to the other inmates for honeybuns and bags of cookies. But it’s okay that Chief Hicks’ policies lead directly to drug dealing inside his facility. He can’t be held responsible for any negative consequences stemming from his cost-saving policies: we can only praise him for keeping the books out of the red.
Friday’s breakfast: two waffles with syrup. Grits. One half-pint of milk.
Legend has it that the jail juice has a chemical in it to reduce the inmates’ libido and aggressiveness. And when you stop to think about it, your sex drive does seem remarkably absent. So they call it “Peter softener.” Of my three tablemates (there are four inmates to a table), one is a cook in the real world, and two have worked in the kitchens at YCBC. The first complains of the quality of the food, the second of the quantity. The third tells me of the mice shitting in the beans and of the tiny roaches he had to clean out of the water kettle in which they make the potatoes, the rice, the grifts – “and you know the other inmates don’t care enough to clean it out like I did,” he says.
Not that it matters. We all lost our appetite long ago.
Not that it matters. We all lost our appetite long ago.
P.S. Feel free to call Chief Hicks and ask why he’s illegally giving legal mail to the prosecutor. This goes against attorney/client privilege.St. Patrick’s Day. Chief Hicks has decided to remodel his kitchen, which means that all inmates are placed by default on the Kosher diet. This morning’s breakfast is Kosher cornflakes and lots of Kosher bread. I refuse the tray and return to my cell.