My housing


After 20 years I was transferred from one prison to another, one of the oldest prison units in Texas. After arriving I received my housing. I entered the cellblock. The drab dull walls had paint peeling of them. The light bulb in the genitor’s closet was out, which reminded me of a dangerous dark alley. I looked around. The day room was large and set off in a way no security guard could see any activity. Four phones trailed on the back wall. To the immediate right were three rows of steel benches. Directly in front of the benches was a flat screen TV. On the opposite side of the large day room was the same TV and benches facing the opposite direction. In the back of the room was a running pisser and a water fountain. Leading to the dayroom were two crash gates, both locked upon entering the dayroom.

A familiar voice

I looked up the three flights of stairs. Before I could move a familiar voice called me: ‘Griffin!?’ I looked inside the small cell and an old man was Lacy standing there. Like always he wore his shorts too high right along with his knee high tube socks. He was one of the few people that left a lasting impression. He survived death row after being convicted of a triple murder. After being resentenced to three consecutive life sentences, he beat two and was still serving one which he was still fighting. It’s impressive considering he had been fighting since the seventies. ‘Wh-? Wha-What are you doing on this-this-trash unit?’ His only crack was his stuttering. ‘Well, I’ll just be a dog-gone old man Lacy’. We exchanged pleasantries quickly and I assured him once I finished unpacking I would return.

My cell


I rushed up to three row seven cells. I looked around. On the metal toilet were two bottles of body wash. Beside the toilet were three rolls of toilet paper and bottles of liquid soap and a small bag of bippy. Bippy is essentially Ajax. Along the walls were two rigged up clothes lines jimmied on four large bolts that held the top bunk in the next cell. On the opposite side of the toilet was a hot pot, in the corner were stacks of urban books, underneath my bottom bunk were bags of food products. The walls were littered with photos out of magazines. Right at the entranceway directly overhead were two locker boxes, two for my cellie and two for me. I neatly put all my things away into the small space available.

Mind you, standing in the cell I could not extend my arms from the wall to the bunk. I could extend one arm to the wall with my palm folded up. From the toilet to the door, it is around six feet. I weigh two hundred plus. The cell was cramped, with two men at two hundred plus means I had to be seated if my cellie stood up to cook or piss. When we took a crap, a sheet would serve as a divider in front of the toilet. I would bet my left arm that this was the situation where the phrase: ‘drop one down one!’ came from.

The problem is that the toilets on this unit are fixed when you flush and you are forced to wait five minutes before flushing a second time. Boxing matches only last for three minutes per round. Three minute rounds are totally exhausting. Waiting five minutes with a grown 40 plus year old man crapping is death.

From new wave to red brick

It was a long way from my old prison unit with the huge cells and large dorm-like living quarters. Units like my old prison unit were considered ‘new wave’ and the antique unit that I currently resided on were called ‘red brick’. This would be the first time I had ever served time on a unit like this.

Showering – another mental mind job


I was awakened the next morning by the call to the showers. Droves of butt naked inmates were forced inside the shower area. On the right are seven rows of showers with ten shower heads on both sides. The shower area was usually packed. On the left side a bar was stationed between a set of wooden benches and the clothing line. Mostly nude prisoners were lined up directly behind one another as the first window gave out boxers.  They never have boxers that fit bigger men, so there were always, always a long drawn out argument at the underwear section. The worst place to ever have a disagreement. In every instance when someone screamed, everyone focused all attention on that situation. I tossed my correct size boxers in the window, nude. I waited for the results. The grimy, half washed boxers were too small and split in between both inner sides. ‘These are too small and they’re torn’. I placed the boxers down in the dirties. ‘Here try these!’ The nervous guy tossed a little bigger size out the window. I heard grumbles behind me. I can’t run no large boxers.

The poor clothing sorter’s life was saved because of the locked door and small window. ‘That’s all they got! Put in a cop out to get you a pair of larger boxers! Here’s another pair!’ He tossed out another set. Grabbing the boxers, ‘these are smaller than the other set’. I took the boxers and moved on to the next window. A half  towel was tossed at me for drying off. One small, one inch by one inch piece of state soap, that’s about one millimeter inch thick.

I went to the next set of windows and got a filthy work shirt and pants. I looked around the room and spotted a place to park my clothes. I rushed into the shower and quickly cleaned myself with what I had available and got the hell out of the shower.

Every day is a press, repeat-do again.

Derrick L. Griffin, 10-02-2022