red light

The red light is on…stand for count

Before I came here I remember watching a you tube video of a gentleman talking about life after his release.  He said that “the sooner you put this behind you, the sooner you have one less day of your life to stand for count.”  At the time, it did not deeply resonate with me.  I thought to myself, how bad can that be?  Well, it’s not that it’s bad per se.  It is more a psychological hassle that is at worst slightly degrading.  Instead of being frustrated by count, which I quickly realized was not serving me, I am trying to use the daily event to impart time management habits, mental fortitude, and new knowledge.

I was not dragged here in handcuffs.  I actually had to drive myself to Yankton and walk in through the front doors.  Everyone at Yankton FPC knows that if you leave, if you walk off, or ‘escape’ you are hit.  You will be sent to a prison with a higher security classification.  You will have time added to your sentence.  They will find you.  Sure, walk away and go enjoy a slice of breakfast pizza at a Casey’s gas station then run off into the morning sunrise.  It will be the most expensive meal of your life.

Even with all this in place, we are still counted more times per day than I imagined inmates would be accounted for at a higher security facility.  When it is count time, bright red lights come on throughout the unit and you know to head back to your bunk if it is time for a standing count, which is at four pm and ten pm, or to stay where you are if it is a census count.

We head to work in the morning, get counted, wait for count to clear, then begin working.  We are counted after lunch.  We get counted again at 4pm and 10pm.  There are also random emergency counts.  When I get into bed and start reading after the 10pm count, the main doors are locked in the unit, and you think we would be done.   But not yet, we are counted while we are sleeping; at 12:00am, 3:00am and 5:00am.  CO’s walk through the room shining flashlights, keys jangling off their belts.  On a side note, this is yet another opportunity for one of my favorite thoughts: if it is not up to me, it means nothing to me.

At first this felt like a grand hassle, and it burns through a lot of time in the day.  I started using the time to read books, however, I find it annoying to start and stop a story so much.  I would rather sit down and read for at least an hour if I am going to read.  A book which recently came into my world is called “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferris.  It is a series of multi-page summaries/highlights/stories of nearly 200 podcast interviews he has hosted.  As you could expect, there is a lot of wisdom all these guests imparted on Tim and his listeners.  He writes about how his life has improved in every area through the lessons he remembered from his guests, but there were also many gems in those podcasts, pieces of information that got lost in the shuffle.  This book is a culmination of all that wisdom, all those interviews.  Each section provides insight that one could glean from the interview, but instead it can now be read.  Tim said that for him, putting the book together exceeded his expectations.  “No matter the situation I found myself in, something in the book was able to help.  Now, when I’m feeling stuck, trapped, desperate, angry, conflicted or simply unclear, the first thing I do is flip through these pages.”  “So far, the needed medicine has popped out within 20 minutes of revisiting these friends.”

This book in total is 705 pages.  Prior to coming here I may have bought it and put it on a coffee table.  Something to thumb through on occasion.  But to read all 700+ pages??  Now, however, I keep it on the desk in my room and any time we are waiting for count, instead of impatiently standing around, watching the minutes whittle away, I dive into this beauty and get inspired.  I have been taking notes too – in particular, one section of notes about topics I want to delve into further when I get home.  Things to discuss, learn, research, explore.  That section unto itself is going to be several pages and every time I look at it I am overly enthused.  I want to carry that energy home with me and use it as a launching pad for when I return.

I am grateful that I have found a way to turn what everyone in prison finds to be a monumental waste of time, standing for count (which can sometimes take up to 30 minutes), and use the exact same time to be inspired and grow.  That is an hour EVERY day of growth and inspiration.  An hour that would have been completely wasted – filled with frustration and boredom.  I find myself frequently continuing to read after count – in a calm, confident state induced by the brilliant ideas and creativity this book inspires.  At this point I might have to apply ‘count’ to my daily schedule when this is all over.  Instead, it would be a time to sit down, check-in for 30 minutes, become re-centered, and motivated.

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