INSANITY IN PRISON
I was assisting the entrance gate personnel in the National Penitentiary when a patrol guard walked by. He greeted me with a snappy salute and made a report about a prisoner they received recently.
A Nut to Crack
The prisoner was for them a cause of amusement. Accordingly, there was this nutty offender who would express his characteristic nervousness when yelled upon. The crazy reaction of the prisoner could send some people around the area recoiling in laughter and for the others cowering in embarrassment. I was intrigued and merely allowed the story to flow through, after all, prison work is a boring and at times monotonous a profession. Excitement usually is generated from any observed incongruity as expressed by anyone, more so by inmates themselves.
In a homogenous setting like prison, insanity is almost a second nature. Loosing freedom, living in a highly communal and totally regimented way destroys any semblance of humanity in the person. It affects the field of reality and transposes anything valid into a sham. Prison is an inverted free society and only those inured in the art of deception are the ones who would succeed to survive. That is as far as the mind is concerned. Expressed further, a prisoner must also subsist in the physical requirements of adjusting to the environment. He must have to outlast his peer or outsmart his guard. Failing to endure, he will definitely perish even if his mental faculty is still intact. But he must preserve his intellect before his body could bend. Indeed, it is one hell of a period in the life of a convict.
My routine in the prison service is to conduct regular inspections. After testing the strength of the perimeter barriers, I would proceed to check the dormitory side, the security wings that define the segregation units in the prison camp.
Regular security routine
As always, from a distance, I would be met by the security supervisor to assist me in my scrutiny routine. And in one such occasion, I would again be met with information that they have a screwy inmate, the same person who was a source of amusement by gate guards. I was reminded of the fellow when the escort personnel whispered to me that they have this inmate who would regale them with jittery manners when screamed at.
Out of curiosity and perhaps some kind of nosiness, I went through the area to check on the prisoner. He was sitting on four thick books idling in the corner. So as not to bother the rest of the inmates and without trying to disturb the air of seriousness, since there were also three wacky looking prisoners milling the area, I pointed at the gate, the rust that accumulates so that no one will be conscious of our presence. The inmate in the far end, the one whom my escort pointed through his lips, rose to greet us with twiddling sounds, with three thick books stacked on his head and tried to tail us. My escort whispered, “Sir, I hope you won’t mind if I yell so that you could see how the inmate following us closely would react.”
I said, “Ok, go ahead but in only in a jiffy.” I was checking from my shoulder some inmates who may be startled also and in the process might create some disturbance which could lead to something violent. I was ready also with my stun gun.
The Burst of Laughter
“WHOOA” shouted the guard and the inmate began to squirm, gabbling with unintelligible language, unzipping his pants, holding on to his capital and continued wriggling. There was laughter everywhere. The inmates knew it would amount to such an entertaining level. They were expecting it and it was a good entertaining break for them. As a matter of course, almost all patrol personnel during changes of shift would shout aloud just to observe the funny antics of the prisoner. “Truly, the inmate has a missing bolt in his brain sir, hehehehe” said the guard laughing. But for me, it was never funny at all. I know my psychology degree and I am perplexed where to categorize such bizarre response. It was uncharacteristic.
My routine in prison never changed. It was the same daily, over and over, repetitive and almost by rote. Except for the arrival of newly convicted prisoners, the entire camp, the guarding procedures, the customary greetings, the habitual movement of the prisoners, everything was timed, everything was monotonous. Like chickens when tamed as hatchlings up until it grows its hackles and comb, it will never leave the area, much more so change the cadence of its environment. The same is true in prisons. When an inmate has stayed say for a couple of years and more, he never wanted to be moved or given any extra ordinary schedule. He has completely adapted to his environment. The tedious climate however is broken whenever inmates would be grouped into batches and required to pull their muscles as in collective gardening or maintenance duties. Since measured prison food is rationed and therefore deficient in caloric contents especially for those assigned in farms, a lot of prisoners would suffer from unnecessary ailments. Only the infirmed, elderly, physically disabled and mentally challenged are exempted from any back breaking task.
Every afternoon, like any other day of the week, I would find time interacting with the security personnel. At this time, unlike in the morning where newly arrived prisoners are received, a different batch of prisoners would appear. They were those who have served time and about to be released. Unlike in the morning, the afternoon shift was always greeted with celebratory salutation. Freedom beckons those moving out from the regime of incarceration. Completion of penalty is a joyful episode to almost all released prisoners.
One day while I was about to declare lemon time, a couple of guards hurriedly moved out from their posts and went directly to the gate where newly released prisoners were passing through. According to them the crazy inmate they were having fun with by sheer yelling at something had received his release papers and about to leave. He had completed his penalty and his cell mates made some kind of departure festivity.
The Final Curtain
The inmate was escorted by senior security personnel. He was walking with confidence, a far cry from the way he dragged his legs in the cell block. His smile was expressive and almost studied. His shirt was clean, pants pressed. From where I was, I could also see his escort signaling to his fellow personnel that they were about to go through. Those at the gate with me asked “Sir, I hope you won’t mind. We have decided to scream as a group as farewell bash to an inmate.” I cautioned them, “Just limit it to a surprise greeting but no invective.” The group of security personnel had a huddle and they gave me thumbs up sign. That was also a time when the prisoner was about to check out.
“WHHOOOOA!!!!!” came the booming shout. The group expected that the released convict would waggle, squirm and grab his crotch. But there was only a little response. The inmate with bowed head merely surrendered the issued institutional supplies to the supernumerary. Then another roaring sound was belted out, ‘WHHHHHHOOOOOAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!” The inmate noticed the hoarseness of the voices and quickly uttered, “Sir, I am released already, no more acting from here on.”
The whole security team was dumbfounded. Here was an inmate who succeeded to take his time away from the back breaking routine in laborious farm work and merely stayed, possibly read a lot of books while being attended to by his concerned fellow inmates.