Gary Brooks Waid
First an update on Mr. Zafar Mian, the federal inmate who was thrown in the box for his religious beliefs:
Zafar spent nine days in isolation before he was let out. The D.O.C. charged him with offenses that he did not commit, took 30 days gain time from him, threatened him with more actions, and refused to entertain the notion then the charging officer was lying, had been lying for some time, and continues to lie. It turns out that after they woke him for work and after a reasonable interval, they couldn't bust him for washing his feet this time, so they got him for, I suppose, the possible threat of a sinister, silent, un-American foot soak.
On the night shift, now, and in the kitchen where he works, there is a conspiracy to dog Mr. Mian. It is being administered by a few ignorant, poorly trained hacks, who want Mian to get angry and say something so they can create a scenario that doesn't exist. They are fictionalizing for fun, at Mian's expense.
But right now I could get a dozen or so inmate affidavits that state unequivocally Mr. Mian is quiet as a mouse. He does his thing in silence, communing with his God and praying for a bit of light to reach all of us. In fact, for the life of me I can't get the guy to be nasty. I can't get him riled up. I can't get him to slam his fist on the table and call these chicken-plucking peckerwoods out.
It's a puzzle. I've never seen such...uh...umm... grace.
Without his beard he looks a little like Handy, anyway, so it's like I'm trying to piss off a cloud (Okay, I realize Handy wasn't a Muslim, but I'm unschooled in these things and a spiritual leader is a spiritual leader, right? Help me here).
"Mian," I say, "Golly darn it, repeat after me: Bag o-pus!"
He smiles. Doves fly around his head. Forest animals sit at his feet.
"Say it, Mian! Sack o-Shit!"
He clasps his hands together, places one foot in front of the other, begins telling me what a nice day it is.
"Gol-dangit, Mian! You gotta get MAD! That slimy bunch of pigs in this one-horse backwater are DOING you!"
But it's not that Mian isn't upset. He's very upset. Especially about the lying. And the lies are so obvious. It's as if they were saying something about someone you know couldn't be true, like if they said something about, say, your mom:
"Yes, Your Honor. That's her. She was dancing naked and she had helium balloons tied to her nipples. She was yodeling Tyrolean hiking songs and stuffing peach pits up her nose."
You know it's all lies but there's nothing you can do to stop it. They say these things because, oh well, because they can and because nobody better say different or we'll get you and chain you up etc...
So Zafar is upset, but at the same time he's a rock. The Mona Lisa is more dissonant. If I could be like that I'd be a whiz at this prison thing. I wish there was a pill I could take. A Zafar Mian pill. Eat two with my yogurt, become a beacon of pure light.
Anyway, for your information, the carbuncle who did Mian and bragged about it, the xenophobic, backwoods ideologue who did Mian and seems to have organized a "let's do Mian" committee, is named Sgt. Griffin. He's a very odd man. And now there's a Sgt. Rogers who has also threatened Mian with cuffs and chains and more hole time if he catches him praying, so Sgt. Rogers is a big idiot, too, but I must say the temptation here is to fix all the blame on the officers, when there's more to it than that.
The reason Mr. Mian has become a target is because first, the guards are so poorly trained. They think the First Amendment is a gospel quartet or something. And second, there is tacit approval from above. The major here has done nothing. Michael Moore, the Secretary of the Florida D.O.C., probably approves. Otherwise our committee of greeters at Central Florida Reception Center in Orlando (the episode I wrote about in my last letter), wouldn't have so gleefully singled out Zafar for abuse.
Whatever happens, folks, and however this thing turns out, I'll try to let you know. Zafar is getting some mail now, trickling in from the world. People must have learned about him from Kay and from the web, and a few letters of support are getting through. If any religious/first Amendment rights people wish to help, go for it. River Junction Work Camp is still an arm of Apalachicola C.I., so the warden there is the guy to address. And Tallahassee. And the newspapers. And the feds. And the Muslim community.
Zafar is of course thankful, but frankly so am I. The irony of this situation bowls me over. I mean, I've seen so much. Two loudmouth convicts could practically kill each other fighting and it would be chuckled at. But catch some dude praying, and off to the hole he goes. He gets to live in filthy underwear and count cracks in the ceiling while he sweats all over his rubber mat and thinks about his terrible crimes.
One last thing about Zafar. I have discussed with him and he understands that because of the letters and the outside curiosity that could be generated, he may become a problem and an even larger target for D.O.C.
He's received 3 D.R.s all together now for his beliefs. It may get worse. But he feels it's his duty (an Imam's ascetic learning, I suppose), to try and fix this thing. So all of you must understand that there will be a certain amount of D.O.C. bullshitting now, and a reluctance from them to put things on paper. A bureaucratic, official "story" might be concocted. And Mian might be called a bunch of things that he is not. He's a federal inmate, though, so no guard will beat him. I've learned that from experience. A guard wouldn't dare, anyway; the forest animals would eat him.*
*(Ahem...Sorry about the jokes. This is damn serious stuff, and potentially dangerous. But I yam what I yam; a jokester. There's also another reason I write the way I do, though, that has to do with pride. You can't ever let these people see you sweat. A smile is a weapon in prison.)
On to other news.
Ooooh, I'm so excited!
And I know you're gonna be excited too when you hear the groovy news I just read on a D.O.C. memorandum posted on all the dorm bulletin boards here at good ol' R.J.W.C. It was from someone named Howell Winfree in Tallahassee, and he says that River Junction "Correctional Institution" is a "Geriatric" facility, and as such will now be provided with "an overall health and fitness program".
Just a few days ago we were a "Work Camp", filled with "healthy inmates over 50". But now we're all geriatric inmates who need special consideration except for maybe we gotta still mow a few hundred acres of Chattahoochee grass when we're able to climb up out of our wheelchairs every morning at dawn, and I myself am allowed to load a big dump truck with about a million pounds of pissy sheets for the hospital laundry every day when I'm not doddering around forgetting my name and drooling into my shirt pocket.
I just love the D.O.C. One day I'm a perfectly healthy conscript for the farm squad, next day I'm a geriatric old fart in need of a program. And this work camp, for he purposes of this memo, is now something entirely different.
I'm just speculating, of course, but what if I get to join an aerobics class? What if I get to ride an exercycle and work out with a thigh-master and climb the stair-climbing thing and do step aerobics, my arms akimbo, my body glistening in my danskins, electric pheromones radiating radiantly from my radiant radiator of a body?
Boy, would that be cool or what!
Of course there's a bunch of spoil-sport inmates around, grumbling. They point out that the rec yard is actually the side of a hill with a cement slab and a pair of hoops and some painted lines describing a basketball court and a volleyball area and an abstract sort of shuffleboard thing. They claim that there's only some bars for pull-ups, a bench, a picnic table, one old handball wall... But I mean, heck, now that we're geriatrics the sky's the limit! Yesterday I used to jog sometimes, when I was a healthy, over-fifty inmate without even a hint of a fucked up back, and it took me exactly one minute to circle the yard. I run a nine-minute mile, so the circumference of the yard must be one-ninth of a mile. Good thing it's not bigger! I'd get lost!
And with the new "Correctional Institution" designation and the "Geriatric" handle, the old set of donated horseshoes I told ya'll about a couple weeks back takes on new meaning, doesn't it? They're now "Health and Fitness" donated horseshoes. High-tech equipment. Maybe we'll get a guy with a whistle we can call "coach".
But with the new designation will come some sacrifice. A careful reading of the memo reveals that this guy, Howell Winfree, is actually the head of D.O.C. food service, and in fact we are now to receive an "Alternate" menu, one that has only half the protein, half the carbohydrates, more canned green squishy stuff, plus fruit and fiber. I checked the new menu out, and sure enough they've stripped it of anything more expensive than straw. The only fruit I found were the lumps in the Jello (except for the occasional fruits working in the kitchen), or a 4 oz. portion of "carrot salad". And our fiber, as near as I could make out, will come from eating the trays.
Sometimes in the past we work squad guys used to get an orange or an apple in our bags. The last orange I saw was an ancient Valencia from California (It still had the teensy weensy label on it.), part of a boxcar load of last year's rejected stuff. The skin had dried and alligatored a bit, but I ate it anyway. I was a "health and fitness" orange for sure, and now there's bound to be more of them. Tons of withered old oranges, one per bag on Tuesdays.
There's problems with some of the geriatrics now concerning medical, too. We still don't get an actual doctor.
But pooh on that, I say, even though my palsied, feeble hand can barely write this, I won't actually need to be seeing any doctors until that magic day when I'm pronounced dead. You gotta look on the bright side. When I'm dead I won't be needing to actually eat. Actually.
I wish the canteen sold vitamins, though. Sometimes I worry about that. Or now that we're a "health and fitness" geriatric unit of enfeebled old men, maybe the canteen will sell athletic supporters. That guy who wrote that lying bunch of shit memo, Mr. Howell Winfree, sure needs an athletic supporter. He's got more balls than anyone I've heard lately, blabbing on with that crap and telling those stories so the D.O.C. can save money by not having to buy some goddamn peanut butter to feed my ungrateful ass.
This is a WORK CAMP, Mr. Winfree! For your information the D.O.C. is paid salary money. Using myself as an example, I am a federal inmate, so the feds give you guys a whopping check to house me. But you've given me an illegal state number, too, so you charge the state taxpayers for my upkeep. And the Florida State Hospital gives you nine dollars an hour for my services.
So why can't you afford to feed me?
I hate that it's come to this, but here goes. For purely selfish reasons I'm gonna rat out the state.
FYI: The state laundry where I work has twenty-four full-time state employees. Only six of them do much; the inmates do the work. So if there's money for state featherbedding and all that nepotistic cronyism, why isn't there money for food?
Even the guards here are mad. They claim this is a scheme by Michael Moore to get the inmates to buck so there's a problem so he can close River Junction down. They claim it will cost the D.O.C. too much money to remove the rest of the asbestos and fix the pipes and all the rest. They're worried about their jobs, too.
Michael Moore isn't, though. He's got a job. Him and Howell Winfree suck on things for a living.
And need I say it?: Adding extra beans to the menu won't work. For your info, Mr. H. Winfree, I live in an open dorm, cheek to cheek with a hundred over-50 men. We cannot eat piles of beans every day. The thought is revolting and you know it. That's what the third world does. So stick your "Alternate" menu where the sun don't shine and THINK next time! "Health and fitness", my butt.
I saw the Warden/Mayor out on the breezeway today, trying to answer inmate questions about our new status. She was telling the absolute, unvarnished truth and I really really mean it. She was also dancing naked, helium balloons tied to her nipples, singing Tyrolean hiking songs and stuffing peach pits up her nose.
Anyone who says different has to eat a D.O.C. orange.
Those of you who think work camp prisoners should be allowed to eat occasionally, please mail this entire piece to:
Florida House of Representatives
Committee on Corrections
Suite 1401, The Capitol
402 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300
Gary 'Piece-a-shit' Waid