Concerning your recent “sanitized” prison tour of Pelican Bay, I was not surprised nor should you be. Little humorous, if nothing else, as you explained your prison tour experience to KHSU viewers. Your description of SHU and the yards was a little vague and sketchy for the viewers out there, but, nonetheless, you meant well. Not an easy environment to describe off-the-cuff while being interviewed on the sir. Life in SHU is like being entombed inside a pyramid and the yards resembled an opened concrete grave, with a secured steel mesh roof, while traversing the yard. Not a pretty sight. A punch to the gut for newcomers: inmates & visitors.
The tour guide sounded like a joke. Typical. The powers-that-be always try to paint a pretty picture of SHU to the public. As far as inmates being childlike and needing guidance from prison guards, or something to that effect mentioned to visitors by tour guide, was laughable. Hilarious! The level of incompetence and outright stupidity I have witnessed by guards over the years in SHU has been mind-boggling! No kidding. Guidance is the last thing we would even need from them. A perfect example, on a small level, is the use of pruno (prison-made wine) in SHU. Lot of guys used to get drunk and act like fools and reate problems for the staff in the SHU. This has been going on since Dec ’89. In the beginning prison officials stopped issuing oranges and grapefruits to end the problem, to no avail. After two or three years, prison officials removed “sugar cubes” from the SHU commissary. That didn’t work either and they still got plenty drunk in the SHU. Many years later, kool-aid and tang drink mix was eliminated from annual food package list (back then, you could get up to 25 lbs. of kool-aid or drink mix of you so desired). SHU inmates still got wasted and prison officials were baffled. Would you believe after 18 years they finally (!) figured out the solution to the problem: no more “state-issued” kool-aid in bag lunches. Last month they switched to “sugar-free” kool-aid instead. Problem solved. Sugar is the #1 ingredient needed to make wine. The annual package was not necessary when we were getting it everyday in the lunches. Pelican Bay is being run by a bunch of morons! Really.
I’ve been incarcerated since 1983 and here at Pelican Bay since ’89. After 13 years in the SHU, I was released to the general public (G.P.). It was the worst experience I had encountered in prison. I hated it! The only program they had going at the time was going to the showers and returning to the cells. We rarely made it outside to the yard and I never had an opportunity to go to the commissary (constant lock-downs). Very frustrating! I wanted to scream and pull my hair out! I was better off in the SHU; yard everyday and fresh air, and commissary every month like clockwork. There were other contributing factors about G.P. that made life miserable for everyone out there. Prison officials were directly responsible for the misery and perpetual chaos among the prison population. You mentioned on the radio seeing inmates working in the prison industry with high-tech equipment. A lot of them guys are low-custody inmates and the majority of the G.P. don’t have jobs and spend most of their time on lockdown cooped up in cells.
Nowadays the quality of food is kind of -iffy. Some days are better than others, evening meals, but the breakfasts and bag lunches are very limited in variety. Same thing everyday of the week all year long, year after year. Most of it-breakfast & lunch- bottom of the barrel type of food. Lot of sweet and bread items: french toast, over-baked pancakes at times, sweet rolls (mostly bread and less sweet). The “cream beef” used to be one of my favorite breakfast many years ago, but nowadays, it looks and tastes awful! And the lunch meat stinks to high heaven! I wouldn’t feed it to a dog. And the food trays always look yucky! When we receive them from the kitchen. I always wipe off the gook and mashed food along the surface of the tray with toilet paper before I start to eat. A very unappetizing sight to see. Real sloppy presentation.
Currently the cells are very cold at night and in the morning. Like a deep freezer for certain cell locations. The heating system for every SHU building is poor and practically nonexistent. Winter and fall it gets unreasonably cold and chilly inside the cells every year. Right now the best place to be housed is in a plexiglass-covered cell where the cells are much warmer. There are eight Lexan-shield (plexiglass) cells in every SHU building. Originally used as a form of punishment for inmates who pose a threat to others. Recently I was moved to another SHU building and was inadvertently housed in a regular cell (no Lexan-shield). I hadn’t been in a regular cell in almost two years. I swear. I felt like an eskimo trapped inside an igloo- it was freezing cold! The following day they realized the mistake and re-housed me to a Lexan-shield covered cell. I could not have been more happier. Like a blessing in disguise.