Editor’s note: This is the latest blog post from a 27-year-old college graduate who ran a small construction clean-up company in Arizona until he was stopped by police for a traffic infraction in late summer of 2010. After Yogi (not his real name) was arrested and fingerprinted his information was shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He was then transferred from jail to ICE custody because he lacked proper immigration papers. Yogi has lived in the United States since 1990. Deportation Nation is publishing his letters as a blog from the Florence Correctional Center, a private detention center in Arizona that is owned by the Corrections Corporation of America.
Jan. 18, 2011
The lockdown lasted for two days and it was never made clear why it happened. They don’t need to give a reason, I suppose, but when you are punished for something without explanation it’s a little unnerving. Aside from that, we weren’t even allowed to take showers! Nevertheless, the ingenuity of a person with limited resources does not cease to amaze, we put together two boxes we would normally use for personal belongings and took “bird baths”. In other words, we used the stream that shoots past the sink next to the toilet to cleanse ourselves.
In here, within confinement, people find ways to do incredible things, and find the cleverest ways of entertaining themselves. Personal space is something I had always taken for granted in here it means something totally different. Even though we are ICE detainees and there are not suppose to be any “politics” (prison rules), there are rules besides the ones set by the institution. Stealing for instance, even a cookie is literally enough to get you “rolled,” to get you moved out of a particular unit to avoid repercussions. At first it seems extreme, but oddly, after some time it begins to be normal and everyone accepts that you must ask permission to enter someone’s personal things and personal space.
When you first arrive at this institution (a private prison), it must give you an orientation including the rules and your responsibilities. I know this because I am the one who performs this function, among other things. Following that there exists another time of orientation when you first enter your cell. It’s usually performed by the most ”veteran” person in the cell and includes the rules therein. For example, my cell is one of the cleanest so we have more rules then others might.
But the rules are not as hard to deal with in the beginning as something else: Uncertainty. For that there is no orientation, workshop, or psychological comfort. The uncertainty of how long you will fight your case… the uncertainty of whether you will win… and the uncertainty of what you will do when you get out, especially if you are to be deported.
For myself, dealing with uncertainty became a matter of switching my perspective from the reality of my imprisonment to a past life of sports. I began viewing my cellmates as teammates and our incarceration as another “sports camp” I had to endure. The intensity of the gravity of the situation does not dissipate, but for me it became or has become easier to bear. It nevertheless is hard to deal with.