05 February 2007

Where is everyone?

It's 9:45 on Monday morning and the chapel should be packed with men in orange jumpsuits, eager to get cards and address books. Instead, the workers are straightening chairs, emptying waste baskets, watering the plants. The windows in my office offer only a view of the overhang of the building, so I have to walk out into the chapel to check the weather. It's foggy, so foggy that I can't see the farthest building across the yard. (There have been foggier days. Once we couldn't even see the fence right outside our building.) The fog explains the silence. We are having "fog line" and people will move only on the hour and only if instructed.

No one will starve. Meal time will go on as planned, but movement to and from the dining hall is almost all within fences, no chance for anyone to go missing while headed from Point A to Point B. Knowing where everyone is at any given time is a priority within a prison. There are all sorts of ways of keeping track: callouts (the alphabetical list of appointments to school, chapel, medical, legal mail), passes (made out in duplicate), phone calls, the computer. Every now and then, it gets complicated.

The other day, I checked to see where an offender was working so I could get him to my office. The computer said he was on the paint crew. No one answered the phone in the maintenance office. I finally called the man's unit and asked an officer to track him down. When the man showed up in my office half an hour later, his forehead bore the distinctive elastic mark of a kitchen worker (those funny hats they have to wear to cover their hair in the kitchen--even if they're bald!). The computer hadn't been updated to show his new workplace.

So where is everyone? Today the answer is simple: unless he's working, every man is in his cell, locked down for the duration. And me? I'm getting paperwork done, trying to weed through the stacks on my desk. It gives me a chance to pray for the guys who've just come in (they're the yellow Religious Preference forms waiting to be filed), for the ones who are thinking about release (they are the purple and white questionnaires who need to be scheduled for a session in the chapel), for the families (that's the set of phone calls on my notepad), for the other chaplains (the email I need to answer and the notes to a meeting I need to type up), for those who pray for us (the basket filling up with prayers). Lots to do. It's Monday and it's quiet.


stacy said...

Hi Shannon. Thank you for sharing and creating this blog. -Stacy Russo

cbangasser said...

I am grateful for this, Shannon. It's lovely to have this small window into your life. Your explanation of the fog line is fascinating.
I assume we all have our own fog line in our lives, days when we don't go out for fear of getting lost...
love, claire