Asalam alaikum wa rahmatulllah…
In the Name of Allâh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful
Everyone I speak to for the first time from here always has the same question: what do you do all day? So I figure I’ll answer it, and perhaps it might be of benefit to someone, insha’Allah. I’ll keep the routine general, what everyone does, rather than my self specifically.
Prison life is all about routines. Its all about consistency in day to day actions, and sticking with it. Its very easy to get bored, to lose motivation, to slacken and to just give up. That’s what prison is, its designed to do that, its designed to break you. Countless people do break. They just go nuts. I’ve been in ‘segregation’ (isolation) for the entire time, so it’s a little different what I do in comparison to guys in general population ranges. For them, its all about working out, phone time, tv, socializing, more work outs, more tv, and then sleep. People come on the ranges, new personalities, different personalities, some get along, some don’t. there’s a guy, or sometimes, a group of guys that run the range, they basically dictate what goes on and how things are done. If someone messes up, the COs hold them responsible, if things are going good, they get some extra privileges or goodies…and that’s how you get through your time on a range.
Here in the hole, things are a bit different. Wake up time is 9 (as with the entire jail), but our day starts much before that. Fajr is around 6 right now, so we wake up around then, or earlier, whoever wants to pray tahajjud. Stay up till around 7:30, usually just memorizing and reviewing, Dhikr, praying shuruq, etc. I can hear the humming of Qur’an at that time, so I know my neighbours are doing the same. It kinda encourages you to also do ibaada.
Around 7:30 is yard time. Too early for sunlight, we’ve complained numerous times, but, the procedures are that seg units go first, and we start it off. Yard is this big concrete place, the size of a basketball court, with walls that are 5 floor high. There’s a pull up bar, basketball nets but no basketball. Its very important to exercise in here, so you have to take full advantage of yard time. Its around 20mins, so you have to run your laps, do pull ups, stretches, etc. We’re in the middle of downtown so getting ‘fresh air’ wouldn’t really apply. Also, yard isn’t an everyday thing, though it should be. We probably get it 4 times a week at max.
After yard, guys usually start their work out sets. Personally, depending on how much time is left till breakfast, I like to knock out. Daylights (fluorescent light right above the bed), come on at 9, hatches open, breakfast follows. After breakfast is showers, if it’s a shower day, mostly its cool COs, so we get them anyways. The shower is right at the end of the range, that’s when we do our cell clean-ups, etc. There’s 5 cells here, me, Ali, Zakaria, the remaining cells are for people just passing through on misconducts. Usually by lunch time (12:30) showers are all done. So as your waiting to go and if you’re already finished, your probably just working out, or reading, etc…
Starting 11, guys get on the phone, we’ve divided the time slots and everyone uses it for that time. Personally I use it last around 5:30, 6 o clock. Throughout the day, if your not on the phone, your either working out, if it’s a work out day, or your reading, or praying. I know of some brothers that would pray the entire day! In the times they couldn’t (after asr) they would be reciting Qur’an.
Supper comes around 4 o’clock. Way too early, so mostly we just wrap it up under the blanket to keep it warm for later. The bread we put in chips bags to keep them from going hard. Anything else, we just wrap it with toilet paper. I found out the hard way that supper is dinner, and there’s no more meals after 4 o’clock. At home, I always used to eat very late at night, around 11, so the jail routine was very tough to get used to, and I’m still not used to it. I never eat my meal until 9 or 10 at night.
8 o’clock the night-lights come on (a bulb, also on top of the bed), things quiet down. The ranges lock up, the TVs go blasting, and most often than not, someone’s singing. TVs go mute while the singing sessions are going on. The general pop range is right next to ours, so when they are singing etc, we can hear them. Those guys are pretty good. Its frustrating if they are watching a sports game though. If someone does a nice move everyone is banging and screaming, if it’s a close game everyone is all hyped up and yelling. I remember the super-bowl last year with the Giants and the patriots, everyone thought the patriots are going to make history, the only team to go undefeated the entire season. Instead, the under-dog Giants come in and win it. I didn’t know who had won that night, except that IT WAS LOUD! Every range in jail was banging endlessly for so long. When your lying down on your bed, lost in your thoughts, and all of a sudden everyone is yelling and screaming, it can get really annoying real fast!
For us, after Isha, the day’s done. Depending on how they’re feeling, some guys either knock out, or read, or like myself, most often, stare at the roof for long hours, lost in thoughts and memories. If it’s a cool CO, he/she would usually call me up to my window, ask how the day was, talk for a bit. Sometimes we get into long discussions on a variety of topics, politics, religion, sports, food…etc… things are mellowed down for COs as well at night time, they come around every 20mins, everything’s locked up, so really, other than doing their rounds, they don’t have anything else to do except sit at their desk and read.
That’s the daily grind. The only exception is if it’s a lock-down, then we don’t get yard, showers, phones, or anything else. You just sit in your cell for 3, 4 days with nothing to do. Those are the hardest and longest days. All motivation is gone, and guys are mostly depressed. Its pretty frustrating also because in seg, we’re on ‘lock-down’ at all times anyways. So when the jail goes on official lock-down, the few privileges we do get (showers, phones), we end up losing them as well. At least on the ranges they have the TVs playing all day, and once again, it doesn’t help to hear the noise, the banging and screaming while your sitting there staring at your favorite spot on the roof.
Something to always keep in mind is never stopping the routines. Some nawafil prayers that you do at the certain time of the day, you always have to keep doing them. At the exact same time, every day. The dhikrs, same thing. Memorizing Qur’an, same thing, memorize a specified portion every day, review a certain portion every day. Fill your entire day with specified things to do at the specified times, leaving no time to think or get bored. It might sound weird, but before you know it, you get so caught up in your routines; you’re too busy for anything else. It gets you past your days, you feel like you accomplished something, and you don’t feel as bad for being in here. The fact is, you will never get time to read, pray, make Dhikr, memorize, or contemplate like you will in jail. For some people, its hard to fast outside, but in jail I don’t think anyone can have any excuse. The food isn’t exactly fitnah… even on its best days it doesn’t measure to home…
As they say in Shawshank, ‘get busy living or get busy dying’. Gotta make the most of it and make sure you leave this place with something on your scales…
سَابِقُواْ إِلَى مَغْفِرَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَجَنَّةٍ عَرْضُهَا كَعَرْضِ السَّمَآءِ وَالاٌّرْضِ
“Race with one another in hastening towards forgiveness from your Lord, and Paradise the width whereof is as the width of the heaven and the Earth.”