To this day, I still remember the first time I went to prison. I was a tough guy. I had two bullets in the county under my belt. I was a Marine. I ran the streets of 'Derry, & Belfast. And I was so scared. I had no idea what to expect. The CO's were all dressed for combat. Jumpsuits, tucked into combat boots, belts with all kinds of stuff on it, including a night stick. These guys were serious. Then it dawned on me. They have no idea who we were. We could be mass murderers, or shoplifters. They were taking no chances. We went through the strip search, & started our way through the loop. The booking process into prison. During this process they would occasionally send in the goon squad to take some guy out. When you parole out of the SHU, or Ad Seg, you still owe CDC the balance of your sentence. Five big guys, all decked out for a war with the Iraqi's would go to a cell, call out a guys name, & yell at him to "Put your hands behind your back, & back up to the cell door, turn around & we will beat the shit out of you." & off they would go. They have you filling out paper work. I never saw so much paper work since I was in the Corps. The first paper you fill out is what you want them to do with your body if you die in prison. Then you talk to a counslor, who decides where your going to be housed.
Prison is divided into levels. 1 is the lowest, & 4 is the highest. It's all based on points. They have things they add points for, & things they subtract points for. Until you go through this process, they have no idea what custody level your supposed to be at. This counslor, talks to you to get a feel for where you should be housed till they find out more about you. Level 1 & 2 live in dorms. Mostly non violent guys, dope charges, theft charges etc. A lot of kids. A lot of first termers. A lot of fights, but few stabbings. All the prison rules apply, but the politics aren't as serious as they are on 3 & 4 yards. 3 & 4 yards live in cells. These are the tough guys. Guys who have been in the system for a long time, or will be in for a long time. A lot have violence on their jackets. These are the convicts. There are just as many stabbings as there are fights.
I have been on the minimum yard at reception on my first term, & by my second term, I was on what they called the lifer yard. This is where they put everyone who had a third strike sentence or more (25-life +). Some of these guys had been in reception for over a year, waiting on a cell at a prison where they had no enemies. A lot of very angry guys here. I ended up here after stabbing a guy on my previous term, & coming up from the hole in the county. I'm not a tough guy, & I don't look like a tough guy. I soon realized, many of these guys wern't so tough either. The shaved heads, tatts everywhere, big muscles, most were just defenses, so people would just leave them alone. Don't get me wrong, there were some real bad asses here, but they were a minority. You treat them with respect, you get respect. EVERYTHING, & I MEAN EVERYTHING IS ABOUT RESPECT. Guys get stabbed for disrespecting someone.
At any rate, reception is where you learn the ropes. You get schooled as there is nothing to do but talk to each other. Mail is so damned slow. No phone calls. No idea where they are going to send you. No idea if you'll make it through your term alive, or without going to the hole, or catching a SHU term, or how many riots you'll be involved in. A lot of not knowing. They put you through a lot of testing, background checks, till they have a good idea who you are, & what your about. Let me say here, they make a lot of mistakes. Guys get labled with things they aren't involved in. Once that happens, it takes an act of God to get it removed from your jacket. Some guys spend years in the SHU over these mistakes.
After a few weeks, you talk to your counslor finally. He goes over your point level, gives you your max date, & your third date. Then he plays a cruel joke. He ask you where you want to be sent to. He gives you this speel, that CDC try's to keep prisoners close to their families. You tell him where you want to go, & he says, OK, I'll recomend you go there, & he even writes it down on the form, all official looking. It's also all bull. I have never been sent where my counslor said I was going, nor do I know anyone else who has either. Guys get their hopes up, write their families etc.
Then, one day, your reading, or witng a letter, or sleeping, when your name is called out, & your told to bring all your property to the CO's office. Yee Ha, your transpacking. Your getting out of reception, & going mainline. The CO, inventories all your stuff, & seals iit into bags with your name & number on it. It stays in his office. The next morning, early, like 3:30, they pull you out, give you your stuff, & send you to R&R (Recieving & Release). You stand in line, a guy yells out your name, & tells you what cell to go in. Over that cell is the name of the prison your going to. Now you know.
Next, will be the bus ride, prison chow, & other things.-----Ken
Be sure and Read all 10 Parts of the California Prison Series - "What California Prison Is Like" - listed below!
PART ONE - Introduction & Rules
PART TWO - Reception
PART THREE - Clarification on fights, riots & stabbings & Rape
PART FOUR - Your New Home & Job, House Rules, Phone Calls & Such
PART FIVE - Drugs, scams, & schemes
PART SIX - California Prison Horror stories
PART SEVEN - (CCF's) Community Correctional Facilities
PART EIGHT - Prison Gangs, Racism, Correctional Officers, Mail, Visits, Phone Calls, and Questions & Answers
PART NINE - Points / Levels, 3 Strikes Law, Ad-Seg / SHU / Protective Custody
PART TEN - Short Time, Release, Work Furloughs, etc