of the men in F-pod arrive with numerous drug charges
on their records. Jail time gets them off drugs for a
spell, and Dr. Kure's Safe Space allows them to consider
the implications of a hit of acid, a line of coke, or
a blast of smack. At the end of the session they mutter
the Serenity Prayer, walk back to the pod, and talk about
pumping a needle in their veins as soon as they get out.
sitting in a circle next to Smackfiend, a 37-year-old
carpenter who picked up the habit from his girlfriend
about a year ago. He tells Dr. Kure he wants to quit,
but knows he will not. "When I get out, next train stop
is Druggie Junction," he says. "Last night I dreamed of
a gumball machine dispensing gumballs of heroin, and I
was scooping them up as they poured out."
late arrival walks in. I groan. Maggothead. He apologizes
for his tardiness and starts unloading about the intruders
in the shower who are very aggressive at this hour. I
say: "Those maggots are carrying the remains of Al Capone's
syphilis from Alcatraz into this place." Smackfiend laughs,
adds: "Wish they'd carry some heroin in."
Kure throws us a frown, raises his forefinger across
his lips, his gentle way of telling us to stuff it.
Maggothead, his mouth twitching ferociously, reiterates
that the loathsome cankers are not giving any quarter.
"Nobody in here cares about this but me. My health is
at stake, and so's everybody else's," he whines.
"Many of the jailbirds
have told me the authorities are determined
to keep the pods full because this is a source of
cash flow for the city."
Kure commends him for his concern. I gag, almost make
a crack about goiters, which keep popping up in The
Vicar of Bullhampton, but don't. Dr. Kure turns his
attention back to Smackfiend, explains that the problem
is "not the drugs, but the thought that you can't get
always comes back to this point, which lines up perfectly
with a belief shared by almost everybody in the pod: Mind
is all; the body is accessory baggage. Incarcerated drug
addicts sound like New Agers blended with Mary Baker Eddy
("What is Matter? Nothing.")
for my venomous brain to believe all this mind power will
do any good, but what do I know, all dressed out in orange
like everybody else and thinking tomorrow's morning could
be a year or two away?
an orientation session where we're given reading and writing
tests, a professor from a "second chance" program at a
nearby university talks to us for quite a while, directing
most of her remarks to the black inmates. She is one of
numerous Human Resource people under contract with the
city. She's articulate but throws off some remarks which
buzz loud on my skeptical radar. Many of the jailbirds
have told me the authorities are determined to keep the
pods full because this is a source of cash flow for the
professor confirms this notion in spades. She rambles
on about all the people from clerks on up to the high
sheriff whose jobs are dependent on filling up the jail
and says "the system" is designed to make a profit off
prisoners. She says it costs about $70,000 a year to house
each person in F-pod. I recall figures for jail and prison
inmates closer to $30,000. I don't wish to quibble about
the amount. But the idea that our crimes are secondary
and the goal of the criminal justice system is full employment
with much overtime is shrieking nonsense.
professor then launches into a hot case in New York where
the cops put forty-one bullets into an unarmed suspect
and were found not guilty of murder at trial. This segues
into something she heard on the news this morning. "A
bicyclist on the Bay Bridge was killed by two policemen,"
she says, shaking her head in disgust. She gives no more
details. Many in the room grumble about cops blowing away
in the pod I pick up the San Francisco Chronicle,
one copy a day which we all share. The prof failed to
mention the bicyclist pulled a gun and fired at two Highway
Patrolmen who had stopped him. They returned fire and