Travel within the prison industry is called “diesel” and/or “kerosene” therapy. You’re either put on a bus, diesel therapy, or a plane, kerosene therapy. The therapy part is the inside joke for inmates because it’s horrific.
Pahrump Nevada is famous for its “whore houses” and a private prison run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). It’s a secure facility which means there are fences with razor wire, no freedom of movement by inmates and entry is through locked and monitored gates. I was removed from my medical solitary room and taken to the area where inmates are processed in and out. Because clothing is not an item that is swapped between facilities, especially private vs BOP facilities, I was given boxers (gray with streaks that I hoped had been laundered), socks that were overstretched and falling apart, cheap throw away slip on shoes and a paper jump suit that was disposable. Then I was sent into a concrete room that was cold, supposedly for germ control, without any comfortable seating, a single open toilet, packed with those of us scheduled to leave, at least a dozen guys, and the door was locked.
I had been unable to communicate with my family since San Bernardino County Jail. No one in the family knew the horrors of prison travel or that I was off to Hawaii. As I sat in that ice cold concrete room, I wondered what my kids were thinking or doing. None knew I was in Pahrump or that I was now being moved. The BOP web site that keeps track of inmate locations does not post an inmates location until the inmate is in a location for a while. How long that recognition period takes is still a mystery to me.
Those of us in the concrete refrigerator are told to line up and get ready to go. We are taken out five at a time, identified, put into leg shackles, hand cuffed to a chain around our waist and put into the box. The box is a plastic device that covers the lock on the hand cuffs so that a curious inmate, on a long travel adventure, can’t manage to unlock them. We were shuffled out to a waiting bus, names confirmed and up we carefully shuffled so as not to fall. When all are loaded up, off we went to Las Vegas airport.
There were several busses at the airport. I watched in amazement as a perimeter was set by men wearing bullet proof vests and carrying automatic weapons. Who in the hell was traveling with us? We waited for about an hour before a plane was pulled in close proximity and guys were taken off one at a time. We were each identified and our shackles and cuffs were removed. We were immediately put back into another set of shackles and cuffs in a box, attached to a chain around the waist. Apparently the jewelry doesn’t travel between institutions, similar to clothing. Climbing the stairs up to a Boeing 737 in shackles is much trickier that maneuvering a couple of steps into a bus. I was seriously concerned I might fall and since I’m a hemophiliac, one of my nightmares would come true; having a bleed in custody.
I was one of the last to enter the plane so I was up front. The seats were standard airplane seats, padded. This was new, my ass would not be on fire in ten minutes. There were six US Marshals, six private security personnel, all men, and a token female dressed in a uniform that sort of looked like a pale PSA flight attendant outfit from the 1970’s. She gave one of those boring seat belt and oxygen mask speeches after we were counted. I asked if we could stand up occasionally and we were all told no. DVT’s anyone? Another asked if we could go to the restroom and we were all told yes, but the door could not be closet, security don’t you know.
We were off to Hawaii. Flight time would be over five hours. We settled in for a long flight with no standing, unless you needed to go to the restroom with the door open. About a half an hour out and a movie was started. Step Brothers, something I had not seen. I particularly liked the testicles on the drum set. The staff began to move around and the “stewardess” went to the galley and began to prepare food. I remembered my anticipation at the In-and Out on the bus ride so I was cautious in my anticipation of being fed. Meals began to be produced and the staff began to eat the crappy airline food. Wait for it… then came the brown paper bags for us inmates. Shit, bologna sandwiches, a piece of fruit and juice in a paper box. Ever tried to put condiments and unwrap bologna to prepare a shitty sandwich, while handcuffed in a box? Of course not, it’s difficult for me to imagine and I actually had to do it. Opening the juice box was also a challenge, especially the part about getting the box up to my mouth with my hands attached to a chain around my waist. I’m a problem solver so I worked the chain up to my chest and voila, I could drink.
The movie, with all the trailers, lasted most of the flight. A guy wanted to use the restroom and was escorted and reminded he had to keep the door open. His complaint was met with an abrupt, “shut the fuck up”. My back was on fire. My blown out discs didn’t do well when I can’t get up and change positions, however, my ass seemed to OK. Our friendly flight attendant got on the mic and told us we were going to be arriving soon so prepare the cabin to landing. WTF? I looked out the window and saw Oahu, a place I’ve been to several times in the past. However, this didn’t seem like it was going to be a vacation.
The plane pulled to a secluded corner of the tarmac and we were taken off, identified and loaded onto what for all intents and purposes, was a tourist bus. It took three busses to hold the 126 guys that had just gotten kerosene therapy to Hawaii. At least a dozen local police cars escorted us off the airport property and several blocked each intersection, with lights flashing, while there were several in front and behind each bus. I had thoughts of one of the Fast and Furious movies where Vin Diesel was busted out of a bus on a deserted highway. Who could possibly be on any of the busses that would warrant all this.
Finaly we arrived at the Federal Detention Center (FDC) Hawaii. We could see the location on the airport tarmac were we had been loaded into the busses and all the security was to drive us around the airport on public roads. The local cops waited in large numbers until armed guards, wearing bullet proof vests, deployed to form a perimeter. A door opened to an underground driveway and the first bus backed inside and the door closed. My bus was the second to enter the building.
We were told to get off the bus and proceed into the building. We were again identified, our shackles and cuffs were removed, and we were sent into a concrete room with wooden benches. There were no toilets so immediately, a guy began to loudly complain he was going to shit his pants if he didn’t get to a toilet, called a shitter. Apparently he was not willing to do his business on the plane with the door open. We were each taken out several at a time to be processed, picture taken, finger prints taken, stripped, given new clothing and back into the holding cell. We were each sent to talk to medical, psych, social services for country of origin and potential gang affiliation and security problems. I had the opportunity to speak with the medical staff about my hemophilia and I was removed to the medical SHU for my protection until the facility could obtain the medicine needed to stop me from bleeding should anything happen. I once again found myself alone in a cell with a bunk, a toilet and this time a shower. At least I could see outside and light could enter. My pineal was feeling better already, but the rest of me was very uneasy.
Next time: Vacation in Hawaii Pt. 2