Dream of: 01 April 1998 "No Escape"

It was the first day of my five-year jail sentence. The sentence seemed long, but I would probably be paroled in a year, and I could handle that. Once I was settled in, things wouldn't be so bad. First I needed to acclimate myself to the place. I was standing in an interior courtyard of the prison, looking at the side of a small white trailer which appeared to contain two restrooms. Two doors faced me, one at each end of the trailer. I decided to check out the trailer; I walked up the few steps to the door on the right, opened it and walked in.

As soon as I was inside, I was surprised to see a woman sitting on the commode. She seemed to be fully clothed, but I averted my eyes anyway. Dressed in a white jump suit, obviously a prisoner herself, she was probably 30 years old, with blonde hair and an attractive figure. Although she was rather pretty, she exhibited a hardness typical of convicts. Embarrassed, I asked her if this were the women's restroom, or whether the restrooms here were used by both men and women. She didn't speak, but put her finger to her mouth and pointed to a little black device on the wall. I immediately caught her meaning: we weren't allowed to talk to each other here, and the room was bugged.

When she finally rose and headed toward the door, I also walked to the door, wanting to check outside to see if the restrooms were marked for men and women. I stepped out and examined the front of the trailer – no signs were on the restroom doors; apparently I hadn't made a mistake after all. Meanwhile, the woman had walked across the courtyard and disappeared into a building on the other side. Only after she had vanished did I realize I should have found out more about her. Meeting women here in prison might be extremely difficult – this might have been my only chance and now I had blown it.

I turned and stepped back inside the trailer. I was still in the same room, which now looked more like a small kitchen than a bathroom. Noticing a small table, I sat down. When I saw my father sitting across from me on the other side of the table, I realized he likewise had been sentenced to prison, and that this was also his first day there.

Food had been set out on the table for us; we were just about to eat, when a uniformed guard walked in and spoke to me. It was immediately clear that the guard wanted to know why I had been talking to the woman. I tried to explain that this was my first day in jail, and no one had told me I wouldn't be allowed to talk. He pulled out some papers, apparently prison regulations, and leafed through them. Clearly my unfamiliarity with the rule made no difference to him; it only mattered that the rule existed. After examining the papers, he seemed satisfied that I had broken a rule, and he laid some dull yellow pills on the table beside my plate. I immediately concluded that the pills contained a sedative or tranquilizer to knock me out; I definitely didn't want to take them. I again protested that I hadn't known the rule and I pleaded not to take the pills. He told me I must take them, but I didn't have to take them right now, that I only had to take them some time before supper. Since it was still early in the day, I was relieved; maybe taking the pills before going to bed wouldn't be so bad.

But my relief was short-lived. When I looked back across the table at my father, three prisoners had grabbed him and were leading him off. Three more prisoners, dressed in dull-gray pajama-like clothes, stepped up to me and grabbed me. I thought the guard would stop them, but he just turned and walked away. One of the prisoners holding me, a tall thin black man, pulled my arms around behind my back and held me tight. I could feel the grease on his fingers as they touched my hands.

As the other two ragged prisoners shambled along in front of us, the black man led me through long dimly lit corridors. By now it was clear that the prisoners intended to do me harm, and I began trying to reason with the black fellow holding me. He wasn't unfriendly, and he seemed to be only doing his job. I asked him why he was doing this, and he indicated that all new prisoners were treated this way. I asked him if they intended to beat me up, and he said they did. I had previously heard that all new prisoners were ritually beaten up when they entered prison. I didn't understand why this was done, but the beatings seemed to be the rule, and I realized my father would also be undergoing a beating. I wished I could do something for him, but I knew of nothing I could do. When the beating began I would try to cover my face and prevent any teeth from being knocked out. I would also try to cover my groin. I was unsure how severe the beating would be. Perhaps I could cover myself enough so I would be hardly injured.

I asked the fellow if any new prisoners ever fought back. He said that sometimes they did. Should I also fight back? I definitely saw the dilemma: if I fought back and hurt one of the fellows beating me, he would probably beat me more savagely than ever. However, if I didn't fight back, I might be branded a coward and have to endure more beatings later. The choice was difficult, especially since all three prisoners were bigger and stronger than I. Clearly I couldn't win against all of them.

I also had another dilemma: perhaps I could cry out to a guard, if I saw one, and perhaps the guard would free me from the other prisoners; but such an action was probably too risky. Probably the worst thing I could do in here was ask for the help of a guard. If the other prisoners turned against me, I could experience severe problems. Besides, the guards might not help me anyway. They probably knew what was going on and just went along with it. The warden probably even permitted these beatings.

Just as we reached the room where the beating would take place, pandemonium broke out. Prisoners ran every which way, and the black fellow released his grip of me. I didn't know what was going on, but apparently the guards were conducting a crackdown. Seeing my chance, I took off running down the corridor, back the way whence I had come. If I could just return to the original room, perhaps I could avoid the beating, at least for now.

Just before I reached the kitchen area, however, I entered another large room filled with women doing calisthenics. All were dressed in different-colored leotards and shorts, swinging their arms and legs about. Clearly I couldn't pass through the room — I would have to find somewhere else to hide. But the futility of my escape was beginning to set in. I was still trapped in this prison and I couldn't escape. The best I could hope for was some place to hide for a while.

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