"Doing Time" - Richard H. Stewart - Boston Globe
The First Day; Dignity Leaves and Fear Arrives
Salem - The expression on the face of the secretary in the District Attorney's office was the first signal that I no longer was an accepted member of society. "We have a prisoner who is surrendering himself, Deputy Sheriff Frances Grace told her. "Is it OK if we let him sit here until they pick him up from the jail? The secretary had been smiling. Now the look of fear was unmistakable. I felt a wrenching in my stomach. Then I felt anger.
The Cell Block; Life in a Barren 5-by-8 Space
Through the barred door that separated me from the cell block, I could see inmates casually wandering the walkways of the three-cell tiers. Many were dressed as I was - in a mixture of olive drab and khaki. Others were wearing shorts. Some were shirtless, displaying a profusion of tattoos on chests and limbs. Most appeared young and lean, and, I mused anxiously, tough and mean. Would they resent an obvious middle-class, middle-aged man? Would they steal my cigarettes and underwear as the guard had warned? Would they threaten me or worse? How would they react if they found out I was a newspaper reporter in jail on a phony drunken driving charge? Would they assume I was put in jail to spy on them?
Rules to Learn; Cigarettes are Money
I learned that was the rule in jail. If you borrowed something you paid it back twofold. Borrow a cigarette and pay back two. There was also a three-for-two rule. You paid back three cigarettes for two. That was a better deal since the profit margin was only 50 percent rather than 100 percent. Inmates were not allowed to have money. Each inmate's money was kept in his account at the jail canteen, which was only open Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Cigarettes were the principal mode of currency.
Jail Boredom Biggest Hassle
In the semidarkness of the cell block, I was startled by the occasional eruption of sparks from the granite floor outside my cell. After a moment, I realized the inmates on the two tiers above me were flipping cigarettes out their cell doors. They were landing on the floor in the Flats. The Flats, as the first level is known, was everybody's wastebasket and ashtray. And my cell, No. 6, was in the middle of the row.
The Final Days in Jail
The large room where the alcohol session was held served a multitude of activities. Most of them took place at the same time. Lawyers met there to discuss cases with inmates. Social workers talked with new arrivals and counseled inmates with problems. Inmates came and went with books because the room also serves as the library. Guards occasionally walked in and shouted names of prisoners who were wanted elsewhere. In the midst of this frenzy, 13 men sat on benches and chairs against a far wall and discussed their personal bouts with alcohol and drugs while they smoked cigarettes and drank coffee from Styrofoam cups.