White Collar, Maximum Security
I heard my name but I didn’t want to respond. I was used to hearing my name being spoken pleasantly, almost reverently, by my friends, my family, and my employees. I was not used to being addressed so impatiently – by a corrections officer, no less. The reality of my situation was just beginning to sink in. As I stood up (awkwardly, due to the chains on my feet and handcuffs around my wrists) and hobbled to the officer who had called my name, I knew what was in store for me. I had sat on the same bench for three hours, waiting to be called. My back was stiff and my wrists were sore due to the heavy steel that encased them.
I approached Officer Mackey, who told me that he was going to remove my handcuffs and leg manacles. I was to put my hands behind my back, which is where they would go anytime I was out of my cell. My prison cell. Little by little, I was beginning to realize that this nightmare was real. Within the next hour, I would be led to a prison cell and kept there for the next eighteen months (with good behavior). As Officer Mackey removed the handcuffs from my wrists, I felt a sense of relief. I rubbed my wrists, surprised at just how much they ached. My ankles didn’t hurt as much, since the manacles went over my pants. Officer Mackey reminded me to keep my hands behind my back. When I complied, I was told to join the line to my right.
I am not a habitual criminal. The process of being booked into a prison is completely unfamiliar to me. My life has always been one of comfort and hard work. I own (or owned, as it stands now) one of the top investment firms in Los Angeles. I put in twelve hour days in order to live the life of the wealthy and privileged. Before my arrest, I owned a Malibu mansion, several vehicles, a vacation home, and I was ready to put a down payment on a jet. Few of my friends and associates knew that I kept up my pace by snorting cocaine. I didn’t think of myself as being a drug user, I simply didn’t think about it until the day I was arrested while making a purchase. The district attorney wanted to make an example of me, and he succeeded. I was sentenced to three years in a maximum security prison.
I was led to an area that looked like a locker room – without the lockers. There were benches and shower stalls without doors. I knew what was coming. Following instructions, I took a seat on the bench. A new corrections officer appeared. His name was Officer Taylor and he informed us (there were nine other men in the room) that we needed to take off all of our clothes and take a shower. Each of us was given a towel, washcloth, and a small bar of soap. I was tempted to snort at the amenities I was given. I was used to Egyptian cotton towels, exfoliating shower gels, and a variety of loofas and other tools in which to maintain my perfect skin. Nevertheless, I was terrified at my situation and I followed instructions. When I finished, I wrapped the towel around my waist and returned to the bench.
“Cutler?” Officer Taylor yelled, “Follow me.”
I followed him into a small room, where a man in a white coat waited. Obviously, this was the prison doctor. He had a file with my name on it in front of him and he told me to sit down. We went over my medical history, my medication requirements, and then the examination began. He checked my mouth, my hair, and, the part I dreaded, the anal cavity search. I tried to convince myself that I was at the doctor’s office for a routine prostate exam. The entire procedure was over sooner than I expected. I returned to the makeshift locker room.
Officer Taylor looked me up and down, assessing my size before handing me a dark blue prison uniform, white t-shirt and underwear, socks and cheap canvas shoes. I dressed quickly, stealing furtive glances at the other men in the room. Many were covered with cheap prison tattoos. Clearly most of these men were frequent flyers in this establishment. Once dressed, we were lined up again and brought to a window. A clerk handed each of us the same items: a pillow, rough sheets and the equivalent of an Army blanket and basic toiletries.
Once outfitted with our prison survival kit, the ten of us were lined up again and led to the actual prison. There was a series of locked doors, security codes, and beeping as we walked. A few men tried to chat with each other, only to be yelled at to be quiet. We reached a final door where the officer in charge informed us that we would be assigned to cells. Once inside, I could see that I was in a modern prison. Rather than bars, each cell was encased in glass. As we walked through the prison, men were given cell assignments. I reached the last cell, which was completely unoccupied. This was to be my cell, as well as the young man behind me. He couldn’t have been more than eighteen, and it was obvious that he was frightened. I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that I would not have to worry about middle of the night prison rape. I was physically fit and trained in the martial arts (every executive has a hobby, fitness happens to be mine).
It seemed we would not get a chance to settle in, for it was time for dinner. We were led to the mess hall, where I was given a tray with food. I couldn’t identify most of it, but after spending the entire day going through the booking process, I was famished. I found a seat and ate quickly, trying not to taste the rubbery meat product or the salty vegetables. Dinner was over almost as quickly as it began, and I was led back to my cell. As I made my bed and lay down, I wondered how a corporate executive would fare in a place such as this. I had eighteen months to find out.