November 20, 2014

Ever since the snow and the freezing cold temperatures blew through town, we inmates on cell isolation have been suffering tremendously. When the juveniles destroyed this unit before they left, they didn’t just create problems for the prison as they intended, they caused problems for the inmates as well, in fact we’re suffering a great deal more than the officials that run this prison ever would. From the acts of rebellion and defiance, the juveniles intended to create a number of problems and headaches for the staff here at Madison to remember them by, a final ‘scenario’, throwing up a metaphorical middle finger as they journey to another prison. Like most criminal acts committed, we don’t sit back and think about just how many people are affected by our poor choices, our motives are clouded by passion, addiction, impulse, lust, or mental imbalance. These juveniles set out to harm the employees here at Madison, but instead they harmed the inmates. Some of the cells in this unit are unoccupied because the windows are completely gone, broken beyond repair, the cold air blows in the windows and
under the doors, cooling the entire unit. A couple days ago I sat next to a man I know from my old unit who works in maintenance and repair; he was one of the men that helped “fix up” this unit after the juveniles left. Without even mentioning it, he asked me about how much cold air is blowing in our windows, stating his knowledge of how damaged our windows are. I asked him why they weren’t properly repaired and he told me that the staff told them the windows were all broken beyond repair, meaning that they would all have to be replaced and that the prison didn’t have the money or the material to fix them, so they would just have to be left the way they are. He told me they still tried to fix the windows as best as they could by drilling and bolting them down, but they could still see that there was large gaps in many of the windows, exposing the cells to the outside elements. Freezing in our cells has been the center of every discussion lately because it seems to be all that we can think of when we’re shivering in our cells all day, unable to sleep at night because it’s so cold. After listening too many of the other inmates give helpful hints on how to minimize some of the cold air blowing in through the cracks of our windows, I decided to follow their suggestions. Many of them said that they take wet toilet paper and stuff it in the cracks and holes. They said that once it dries it will block the air from blowing in, slightly improving the cell climate. I already thought of doing this before hearing about so many others doing the same thing, yet trepidations kept me from doing so. Often inmates will seal of all exposed cracks around their cell when they are doing things like smoking cigarettes, marijuana, or burning soot for tattoo ink, so I hesitated building any kind of make shift seals for this reason, not wanting yet another false label of substance abuse. This is another classic example of why sometimes it’s just necessary to break the rules in prison in order to survive. Unlike the past, I’ve thought this out long and hard, weighing out the consequences as well as the benefits. Due to the large number of inmates, perhaps the majority of them in here sealing up windows with toilet paper, the chances of them punishing all of us are slim, especially after the constant complaining about the cold coming through our windows, the staff is already aware of our reasons. So I used an entire roll of toilet paper, stuffing wet balls of it in the cracks and holes. It’s still very cold in here, just slightly more bearable. The toilet paper hasn’t dried yet and I’m not sure it will because it’s frozen along with the rest of the window, the inside and outside is covered in thick frost. As I’ve said before, my lengthy sobriety has rejuvenated my morals and enabled me to think clearly. I live each day with goals and values for an honest and successful life and future with my family at my side. I know that I can’t achieve this life by living dishonestly, or breaking laws and rules, but as you can see, in prison sometimes it’s inevitably unavoidable.

Steven Dybvad

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