Chapter 25

At this point in my own personal BOP journey, I was starting to lose it. I know this because out of the blue, for absolutely no reason at all, I cut off all my hair. Gentlemen, if you are reading this, this is always a sign. Always. If you know a female who suddenly hacks off her very long hair, she is going through something. I don't know what possessed me to do it. I just parked at the salon on my way back from the city, walked in and said "George, I need you to do me a favor". And he did.
I loved it for about two days.

And then I cried. For the majority of my lifetime, my hair had always been long. It shouldn't matter that it was (extremely) short now, but it did. It was a momentary madness that had gripped me and I made a rash decision, and now I had short hair, very poor hair styling skills and a husband in prison who was going to wonder what exactly had happened to cause me to do it.

Dan came into visiting and didn't even say anything, he just gave me a hug. He told me Tank had seen my haircut from the window and warned Dan in advance. They both agreed it didn't look bad, just different. No kidding.

I had never had my hair this short, it itched my neck. I took to wearing scarves so it wouldn't bother me all the time. At night I wore beanies to keep it off of me. I regretted this haircut immensely. I think part of the reason I did it was because I had just gone through a minor medical scare and needed a rough reboot to jar myself out of it. There had been talk of benign and non-cancerous and a biopsy to check, then fear because there were abnormal cells. It was decided I was fine but they performed a minor surgery to excise additional tissue and it involved stitches. I have a one inch scar on my ribs from the ordeal, When questioned, I advise people I was stabbed by a pirate. That usually ends any further questions. The whole thing freaked me out and I believe the impromptu haircut was a way to cope. In a letter I wrote to Dan after he saw it, I explained that at least he only saw me once a week, so the awful would grow out and soon I'd be back to pretty again. If I was going to have a short horrible haircut, at least it was while he was away. Silver linings people!

Much like children, inmates can turn almost anything into a form of amusement. Dan's bunkie on 7 North was nicknamed Kentucky Jim. Not a very original nickname- his name was Jim and he was from Kentucky. Another inmate, also from Kentucky, nicknamed Kentucky Robert, thought it would be funny to play a joke on Kentucky Jim. He flushed two oranges down the toilet in their cell. One came back up (oranges float). One stayed lodged in the pipes. Kentucky Jim did not find it amusing in the least, neither did the CO who had to keep calling the inmate plumber with the plunger. The toilet sort of drained but it took a long time. Dan was glad he had a few friends in the unit so he could use their toilets in their cells until his got repaired. No one would have dared play such a stupid prank if Tank had been a bunkie in that cell.

Dan was really unhappy on 7 North, and it appeared that whatever made the BOP decide to move him had changed, because he wrote that he was moved back to 5 North again! The timing was such that I got to visit him two days in a row that week, since 7 North had visiting on Wednesdays and 5 North was on Thursday. Dan was working with his lawyers to get re-designated. He wanted to go to a Low with RDAP so he could get out early. It was all he focused on. He was pretty certain he would be moving very soon, but we didn't know where to. We were also having the unfortunate problem of mail interference. All of my letters would get opened before they got to Dan, that was expected. But a few of his letters didn't seem to make it from the mail room to me. Dan tried to address the issue in a very original way:
Friday, November 27, 2009
My Dearest Darling Chani,

AND- Whoever else is reading my mail!

First of all, whoever is reading my mail, be it Lt. Walker or one of his employees, or maybe Ms. Jones, please have the courtesy of actually sending it on to my wife. She is the intended recipient (not y'all downstairs!) Unfortunately, you sent her a blank envelope, as well as a sealed, reopened, and stapled shut envelope too. So, two of my letters were "messed with" and one of them wasn't even delivered! What the heck! At least have the decency of sending it on to her after you read it!

So, darling, my Saturday, Nov 21st letter came to you empty. Moreover my package of letters that Ms Hill took never made it to you. So, 4 months of your letters to me are now lost. Please call and complain to get them. It has been more than two weeks since Ms. Hill said she sent it out from Unit 7 North.

Do we need to hire a lawyer and sue for our mail back? Should we complain to the regional office in Philadelphia or the national office in Washington D.C.? Should we get a lawyer to complain to these offices?

I'm upset that you didn't receive the mail I sent to you. It is painfully obvious that something is amiss.

I miss you,

I should have known something was not right. Dan wouldn't usually write a letter that could be interpreted as inflammatory. We knew all mail incoming and outgoing was read. None of it made sense- I just didn't understand he was trying to warn me. When I went to visit him, he was beyond weird. He was watching everyone with nervous looks and seemed twitchy and wound up. He told me he wasn't safe, that something very bad was going on and that he needed to get out of MCC now, his life was in danger. Someone had ordered a hit on him and he had found out about it. I didn't truly  believe him at first. He didn't want to tell me what was going on but then he whispered it to me and I was suddenly certain he was correct.

Actually, in an ironic twist, the inmate who was supposed to do him in approached Dan instead and told him about being hired to attack him. He said he wasn't going to go through with it because Dan had been good to him. Remember I mentioned that a typewriter saved Dan's life? Always pay it forward- Dan had been typing letters for this guy because he wasn't good at writing. Because Dan helped him write to his lawyers and family, he warned Dan instead of hurting him. I didn't know what to do. I left the visit and called his lawyer. I cried to him and said Dan was certain his life was at risk. I called a few Rabbi's and asked them to help get Dan transferred somewhere else immediately. Dan had been working with his attorney on something to get him released early, and somehow the officers at MCC had ruined it and put Dan's life on the line. And now an inmate wanted Dan dead.

I hadn't felt this level of panic yet the whole time Dan was in prison. Apparently, everyone I spoke to could hear it in my voice too, because things moved very quickly. Dan was whisked away by US Marshall's the next morning, but I didn't know where they were taking him. All I knew was that his lawyer said he was going to be safe and that he would keep me posted. I found out later that after visiting, a few guys had confronted Dan and it was ONLY because Tank stood there with him, that nothing happened. Tank stayed by Dan that whole day, and at night he made sure Dan was in the cell and alright. Tank most definitely saved Dan's life. We don't forget things like that, not ever. I didn't know any of that until later, all I knew was Dan was in grave danger and hopefully on his way to safety, somewhere. I hoped.

So I waited. Two days later, my phone rang. Dan was alive and in a place called GEO. It was the Queens ICE facility near JFK, he said. I had never heard of it, I didn't even know there was a prison near JFK! Apparently, few people know about it. Anyone who lives in the Five Towns or Far Rockaway passes it EVERY time they pass the airport! It was mainly an immigration holding prison, privately run, where high risk BOP inmates sometimes got parked for safety. I was blown away. If you are ever driving on the Nassau Expressway which turns into the 878, as you pass JFK on your right, there is an infamous 24 Hour Peep Show store on the left... two blocks behind that is GEO Queens. Even more amazing...GEO is located 4.1 miles from my parents house. I checked on my navigation. Now pick up your jaw from the floor, let's continue.

Dan wrote me one of the most hilarious letters regarding his GEO intake...I could try to describe it but his words are so well written that I am going to post most of it here for you now.
December 4th, 2009

My Dearest Darling Chani,

By the time you get this letter everything I am about to write will be stuff you already have found out. So, I will try to make light of my plight and bring levity to your time that you spend reading this missive.

I'm in the damn SHU. What the hell went wrong? Well, the CO, (Mr. Rice)who was cordial and nice to give me a phone call to you didn't mention that the reason I wouldn't be likely to see you tomorrow is that he absolutely knew that I would be in SHU until Monday. What the hell?

Let me explain:
We arrived at "the GEO Group Queens Private Detention (GGQPD) Facility" after 7:30pm. Mr. Rice is the "intake" officer extraordinaire. He slowly did the following:
1) gave us unbelievably bad food for dinner (I'll tell you more about this later)
2) processed the three new inmates from one holding cell to the next

At this point in the story I have to explain why this was such a hysterical process... 
 In a normal R+D intake there are many officers involved to move the process along. Here at GGQPD the powers to be have economized to the absolute maximum. This economization is evident in everything I've experienced so far. For example...the food obviously fell off the back of a truck, it was then run over by traffic, then and only then was it scraped off the roadway, turned down by a local farmer as food unfit for consumption by his livestock, and sold to some laughing requisition person at this facility to serve as dinner to yours truly.

But just in case this example of economization doesn't drive home the point, let me get back to my "Intake" evening. Let's call tonight "A Night in Intake."

Moving back to 7:30pm apres the indisputably bad concoctions that they called dinner. So, I was in R+D in Room 1 with 2 other new inmates. He called us out one by one to go to Room 2 to meet the "clothing + linen distribution officer." Well, lo and behold, the very same Mr. Rice popped up behind that counter to "welcome" us to GGQPD Clothing + Linen Distribution.
Chani, try to imagine this scene. Mr. Rice was at the R+D counter and told us to go to Room 1. He then went to another counter and called us in to Room 2 where he magically transformed into the clothing and linen distribution counter person. After distributing us all clothing + linens he shut the clothing + linen counter down and left us in Room 2 to wait for the Photo + Paperwork counter to open up. (Try to remember that in Room 1, Rice was the "Food Counter Person".) So, as Counter #3 opened, once again by Mr. Rice (who was now wearing a ball cap that says "Geo") we were called out of Room 2 to meet the Photo + Paperwork officer (once again Mr. Rice) who then photographed and documented our existences.

After that was completed, the Photo + Paperwork Counter was closed up and we were all told to wait in Room #3.

Guess who came to Room #3 then asked us all to go to Counter #4? You got it...Mr. Rice.
 At Counter #4 we were each given a phone call and told to "read" a sign that explains visiting and directions to GGQPD. So, Chani, at this point we (you and I) spoke to each other. I was blissfully enjoying my evening thinking I'd get to see you soon until Mr. Rice tricked us all.

Mr. Rice said to "grab your stuff" and go down the hall to get our bed assignments. It was 8:45pm and he was going home at 9pm. We all went down the hall, exhausted from a long day, and summarily THROWN into SHU. Why?

Well, there was a Step #5 in R+D (Receiving and Discharge). 
Huh, wait a second? What is Step #5?
Step #5 was seeing the Nurse to get medically cleared to go into general population. But, Mr. Rice, did not want to wait for Step #5 to be completed (as he got off work at 9pm) so he dumped us in SHU instead of giving us our "bed assignments." On his way out of SHU he said "I'll be back Monday to give you bed assignments. Until then R+D is closed." What the Hell?
 Just as a point of interest, the nurse did come around a few minutes later and gave us each a brief questionnaire...
Have you ever had a sex change? (I said no)
Have you ever lost consciousness? (Hmm...if you lost consciousness would you even "remember" it?)
Do you have any communicable diseases? (I said no)
Is everything all right at GGQPD so far? (Is she a tour guide, a hotel concierge, or a freaking nurse? What the hell questions are these that she is asking us?) ...I held my tongue and didn't say "Hell no, I'm in the damn SHU!"

Back to my brief medical interview... She said "Stick out your arm." So, I did.
A moment later she deftly pricked me with a needle and said "TB test." Wait a second? I did this last year! She said "Well, now that you have been injected you'll have to wait 48 hours in SHU to see if it comes back positive."
 So, in the end, I wouldn't have cleared medical anyway until Sunday and so I'd be in SHU no matter what... even if Rice had stuck around. I think Rice knew that we'd all be given TB tests, thus he knew we'd all be going to SHU until Sunday, thus he knew to take off and dump us in SHU anyway. Sheesh. This was information I could have used before I called my lovely wife!

Anyways, you will still be coming here tomorrow and you will be mentally destroyed by me being in SHU. I think this sucks as I never want you to be stressed.

At least you won't have to travel far to see this place (again!)
Hopefully you already put some money in my account so I can call you. This won't happen until Monday, but hopefully I have money on Monday!

So, while I'm in SHU, I did get 4 things already.
1) At medical I took every scrap of paper so I could write you this letter! How do you like the "materials" on the backs of these pages? Reminiscent of Taft? TI? etc...
2) I got a pen (Yea!)
3) I got a newspaper and book to read and
4) the SHU CO is a lot like a valet... he serves "juice" 24 hours a day... more about this tomorrow.

For now, I'm going to sign off for the night. I love you darling. Stay strong. By Monday we should be 1) visiting 2) calling a lot!

While Dan was rotting away in a cement box less than five miles from where I slept, I was back in Manhattan dealing with some washer/dryer issues that had magically arisen. On my way back from the city, I stopped in at GEO and tried to visit Dan but was told he was not medically cleared. I had not yet received his letter... I did deposit money into his account so that when he WAS cleared he could call me. I got some details about how visiting worked (it was four times a week!) and was advised to call on Monday to find out if I could start visiting then. My sister tried to distract me and we went to see 'New Moon' in the theater. It was hilarious- the roof at the Sunset Plaza movie theater leaked the whole time and it was so loud, it was hard to hear the movie properly!

I got the prettiest present in the mail. Weeks earlier Dan had told me to look out for it, but it never appeared, so now it was a very welcome surprise. Dan had made tissue roses for me, and framed them in a box he created from cardboard. They were dyed with marker ink, that he had watered down so they looked delicate and pinkish red. They were beautiful. 

Here's the thing about prisons. Each one has its own set of pros and cons. That was a double double entendre. But seriously, you never quite knew what would suck the most at each place, and what unexpected perks you might encounter. I was glad Dan was so close physically to me that visiting would hopefully be a breeze. I was thinking that maybe NOW my family could really start to visit him too. In the back of my mind I wondered though, what would the negatives be. Cue ominous music...dun dun dun!