Realignment in California Prisons Should Be More Than Just Moving Bodies Around by Glenn Langohr ( Former Prisoner now author/speaker )
The prison yard is stacked with prisoners bursting at the seams like a slow moving tsunami. A gun tower guard stands holding a block gun 30 feet in the air watching the exercise bars below. A couple of Mexican prisoners aren’t working out. They’re facing the gym and using their fingers to sign words into sentences that could spell violence to inmates inside the gym 10 feet away. I walk by on the cement track that circles the yard, in pain with a limp from a pinched sciatic nerve, and look inside the gym through bullet proof glass. On the other side of the glass, it’s stacked with 150 prisoners and is just a little larger than the size of a basketball court. A handful of prisoners stand naked other than white boxer shorts and shoes studying the yard. Further inside, inmates are stacked on triple bunks like sardines. I silently thank God again that I’m not in there where the inmates are left in charge of figuring out who can use 8 toilets and 6 showers. When they’re not doing that, they’re busy trying to establish rules and regulations to keep respect in tact amidst so much noisy warring chaos. With so much pressure and the constant threat of violence, inmates sleep with their state boots on. During the day, another way they try to maintain the perception of respect, is by blasting ink into gangland tattoos and another identity far away from home.
Even though the yard I’m on is a level 4 California prison next to the border of Mexico, the prison administrators are still trying to find inmates to stick in the overcrowded gym. The inmates serving life sentences are safe and are excluded at this prison so far and make up about 20% of the inmate population. After that, most of the prisoners serving 20 years or more are pretty safe, so far. From there, prisoners who had been involved in surviving a number of riots and other violence in rule violations used to be safe. Not anymore. Up to this point I had been in solitary confinement for a couple of prison riots, 3 mutual combats and a couple of other investigations. On my last trip to solitary the prison administrators had written in my file that I wasn’t to be housed in a gym or dorm environment. It didn’t matter. With the overcrowding, I was still on deck to get housed in the gym. I knew because prison guard Security Escort Heart warned me. My cell mate Scott had just been transferred to the gym yesterday. He was a 19 year old surfer looking kid without a tattoo on him. He was doing his time for a prison sentence related to his heroin drug habit.
Walking the track full circle I saw Security Escort Heart in front of the gym. He was shooing away the Mexican inmates on the yard still communicating with their fingers to inmates inside the gym. He walked my way and noticed me. “Inmate Langohr your back looks bad. You probably have a herniated disk from all the burpies you used to do.”
Heart’s face looked authentic, like he cared. I said, “Every time I go to the hospital all they give me is aspirin.”
Heart shook his head and said, “You’re supposed to get better medical attention with the Supreme Court ruling and this realignment. Do you think moving prisoners to the county jails is going to fix anything?”
Now I was shaking my head. “You know just moving bodies around isn’t a solution. The solution to start with is to stop sending people to prison for drug and poverty crimes. This is what we get for warehousing a bunch of drug addicts. We’re breeding an addiction into an affliction much harder to escape and spitting out tattooed displaced souls back onto the streets.”
I limped passed Heart and saw Scott in the gym. He was standing on the other side of the bullet proof window with a fresh tattoo on his chest. I nodded to him and thought about his mom he often wrote. Her name was Sally and I wondered if Sally the soccer mom realized her son was now a skin head.