Prison Ways

by Mike Powers

From my earliest days of incarceration, I’ve been an insider to life behind bars. And while we all probably understand that there is no such thing as true “Reality TV”, the movies and the shows have depicted a pretty accurate picture of the idiosyncrasies and outright nutty ways that permeate prison life. Let me share some examples.

Let’s start in the bathroom, because toileting in what amounts to a public area spawns a ton of strange habits. The most annoying one on my list is nearly infinite “courtesy flushing”. This is all but required when going Number 2. If you forego the flushing, you better have two paralyzed arms. I can understand this one. No one wants to smell another’s business. But the flushing syndrome doesn’t stop there, by any means. For some reason, inmates think they must constantly flush their urine as well. All prison toilets are jet flush models that, if you aren’t careful, would almost suck you into the sewer if you didn’t hang on. These youngsters can get away with flushing maybe once or twice while they’re going, and walk away satisfied, but not me. As a representative of the “old fart” class of the prison demographic, I’m afraid the waterworks aren’t what they once were. On good days, I might need only four or five flushes, but at other times, I would have to flush ten or eleven times to get it all in.

 Here’s the deal: I’m not going to flush that many times just to pee. First of all, my inner tree-hugger, be he ever so humble and Red-state happy, just can’t bring himself to pour 10 gallons of water down the drain just to pee. The Flushers justify this waste with excuses like: “No one wants to smell the pee.” “The sound of the flush covers my farts.” And, my favorite, “It keeps pee from getting on the floor.” Let me address these one by one.

First, the smell of urine is negligible, even in the smallest of cells, as long as it is flushed after the bladder evacuation is complete. Granted, it can get bad if left

to stew like in a rest stop restroom, but that’s not the danger here.

Second, the SOUND of the flatulence isn’t the problem. No, it is the aroma that is offensive, so flushing to cover farts doesn’t wash.

Finally, the people who say it keeps pee off the floor have a point. When peeing, urine does indeed splash up out of the commode and onto the floor. However, unlike the floors in the vast majority of U.S. homes, prison floors are almost universally made of concrete. Also, most homes do NOT have a commode that will flush five times in a row in the time it takes a man to pee. Most homes have a flush and fill toilet that takes a couple of minutes before you can re-flush.

So, two things: 1) You never had a problem with pee splashing on the tiles of your bathroom floor when you were free. In fact, I’d wager that most of these fellows never even worried about cleaning, leaving that to their “baby momma”. 2) Even if you WERE concerned about all that, you didn’t have the jet flush toilet. If you lived without it THEN, you can make it without it NOW.

Sadly, the flushing flu doesn’t stop with toileting. It extends over into oral hygiene as well. If you are one of those poor, unfortunate souls presently heading to the hooskow, let me warn you now. WhatEVER you do, for the love of all that’s holy, DON’T spit your tooth-wash in the sink! This is an unpardonable sin from which you will never recover. Even if you flee to another unit, the penitentiary

grapevine will have preceded you and exposed you as a “sink-spitter”. God help you.   If you think I exaggerate, just ask any ex-con with whom you have conversation, and he or she will verify my words.

Now, if you thought the former flushing rules drive me nuts, you minnow seen me go right over the loony moon, because this, to me, is nothing short of ridiculous. When I debate these people, my first question is always, “Did you ever spit your tooth-wash into the toilet BEFORE you were incarcerated?” And of course, the answer is ALWAYS negative. That’s because no one is going to waste all that water to keep from spitting in the sink. For goodness sake, spitting tooth-wash out is practically the whole purpose of having a sink in the bathroom in the first place. And are you trying to tell me that spitting tooth-wash is WORSE than waste water from washing your hands after toileting? Jiminy Christmas, man! Get a life.

I guess that’s about all I have to say regarding prison ways in the bathroom, except the universally-known, “Don’t drop the soap.” Personally, I’ve dropped the soap many times without incident, but I admit that I am overly conscious of exactly HOW I bend over to pick it up. I use a lot of knee and not too much waist, just to keep temptation down to a minimum for any potential predators.

Okay, so I’ll mention a couple more janky prison customs. The first is the chow hall table knock. I have no idea where this custom began or why it is perpetuated. However, even I have succumbed to this comforting practice. It’s almost as if knocking on the table when I finish my food and get up says, “Ha! I survived another prison meal unscathed. I am still able to get up and walk away from this table.”

Lastly, there is the custom of calling the Correctional Officers “Boss Man” or “Boss Lady”. This as you may have guessed, is a tradition held over from the old plantation days of the Texas Department of Corrections. Sadly, it accurately reflects a hold-over of. that same mentality, one which holds no promise for reform, but oozes with all the brutality of the old days. Now THAT is something worth flushing.

The Attorneys
  • Francisco Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Phillip Hall
  • Rocio Martinez