On Friday I met my girlfriend Patty in Walnut, Iowa. We had a long, lovely walk at Prairie Rose State Park that morning. I think I want to live there. In the state park, I mean. Great walking, expanses of mowed grass, and lots of water. We saw Grosbeaks and Orioles and deer. We walked and talked for about an hour before going back into town to find lunch.
When we returned to the car, I had this message from Sarah: "I have to leave for work, but I just talked to Daniel and he said PRISON IS AWESOME!"
Should I be worried?
"I'm saving this," I told Patty.
I talked to Daniel for a while last night, and YES, compared to what life has been like for him the past nine months, prison does sound pretty "awesome".
Because this is a Federal Prison Camp, and minimum security, Daniel has much more freedom of movement than he did at the county jail in Aledo. In the section where he was placed in Mercer County Jail, they house mostly federal inmates, mostly from Chicago, who are awaiting hearings. On any given day, there are up to thirty men in a pretty confined space, two to each cell, with a common area. When Daniel was there, sometimes there were as few as twelve.
They have lock down three times each day, something I think of as unnecessary since they can all see each other at all times. They are never allowed outdoors (can't really even see outdoors) and share a television. The favorite program is Family Feud or reruns of Family Feud. They have a small library, but Daniel read everything that interested him pretty quickly. He fought boredom. We sent a lot of books. I hate the idleness of this for all of them. It's such a waste.
Our visits took place over closed circuit black and white television monitors, timed to thirty minutes each. I talked the administrator into a whole hour once because of the distance. I called ahead and asked for an hour nearly every time I went. Sometimes I got, "We've never allowed that here." Once I got, "That's a one-time thing." Usually I got, "You have to talk to the administrator. He's not here."
Meals there aren't so great. They have cold cereal every morning and may purchase some kind of prepackaged bun and extra coffee. Hot lunches are prepared for them in Rock Island, about forty miles away, and transported in coolers. Always served cold. Packages of Ramen noodles are available for a couple of bucks. Each. At the evening meal there are two sandwich choices: bologna or salami. Every evening.
I know. It's jail.
But Pekin! At the camp, where Daniel is being held, the inmates are typically white collar or low level drug and non-violent offenders, who present no run risk. They are housed in dorms and there are no cells. The food is much better, and they can go outdoors any time they wish, up until 9:00 at night.
They have a track, and Daniel already joined a softball league. He said he's out of shape. Little wonder. One of the native American inmates convinced them to let him build a sweat lodge, so Daniel's been involved with that as well.
He just got approval yesterday to give guitar lessons as his job. So his chief responsibility is hanging out in the music room with the person in charge, listening to an mp3 player and giving lessons and practicing. There's also a great library. It sounds like the nursing home I want to move to someday.
Daniel's official release date is 6 November, with some variations. Meaning, it will probably be sometime in September. I don't know how all of this works. It has to do with counting everything as time served and a little time off for good behavior and when/whether he can get accepted into a halfway house or released under house arrest so he can work. We'll see.
But I'm happy he's in a better place, happy he's moving through this, happy he's making some changes, and happy he has more meaningful ways to keep himself occupied. I'm happy he's getting exercise and better nutrition. Being indoors that much would drive me crazy. When I said that to Daniel on the phone last night, he said, "Yeah, but you can't say that. . .they'd really make sure you never went outside again." He still has a sense of humor.
Mostly I'm just happy that he sounds better than he has in months.
And I couldn't stop saying it: You sound better. You sound so much better. I'm so glad you're sounding better. (Maybe that means I want prison to be "awesome".) Because I'm his mother. And that's the kind of thing mothers listen for.