This Prisoner Is Watching You

[by Jon Fontaine, NY prison inmate – written while temporarily housed in the Monroe County Jail]

I had a window for six months. I looked right out over two major intersection in the city of Rochester.

Whenever I was locked in my cell, I’d stand on a steel stool, forehead pressed to the glass, staring out.

Did the people walking in groups on lunch breaks know I was three stories up, watching? Did the couple who walked their golden doodle up and down Spring Street and Plymouth know I would hold my breath when the dog started bouncing all over, running in circles, yanking on its leash? I was hoping it wouldn’t dart into traffic.

How about people flying over downtown to land at the airport? Did it ever enter their brain that someone in a jail cell might be looking up at them? Or, the people in the Amtrak trains crossing over Plymouth – Did any of them catch my silhouette in the window?

I stood at that window for hours and hours, listening to The Zone, WCMF and WHAM radio, imagining what it would be like to be in one of the cars, planes, buses or trains that I saw.

I have no idea if other inmates do the same thing, and no idea what they would think if they knew that’s how my time was spent (not that I’d care what they thought).

I have no idea what normal, law-abiding citizens would think about some convicted felon staring out a window, watching them go about their lives, filled with longing, jealousy and remorse.

Life just passes me by. In more ways than one, I know I have no one to blame but myself for my view of the world. But it’s hard to not feel bitter and jaded when even the good things I tried to do, and did, fell apart on me.

Now, I’m stuck in a windowless, skylight-free hole, with no window to look out and no sun shining down.

There is no fresh air to breathe.

I am alone with my thoughts – literally buried alive, neither here nor there.

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Deputy Go F Yourself

[by NYS prison inmate Jon Fontaine, temporarily housed in Monroe County Jail]

Toilet paper, soap, and something to brush my teeth with – that’s all I needed. It’s all I was entitled to: basic toiletries.

I left prison at 6 a.m. and stayed shackled until my booking into the Monroe County Jail six hours later. For the next five hours, I sat in a small booking tank with a half dozen other inmates.

It was filthy. There was trash on the floor, and a toilet that looked like it had endured every form of bodily explosion and never been cleaned. Flies buzzed all over it.

I was informed our jail issue jumpsuits don’t get washed before re-issue; only tossed in a dryer to “kill the bugs.”

I kept trying to dodge the reek of body odor, only to learn it was my own unwashed jumpsuit.

We were all given bedrolls and moved to the “street plaza” unit. It was December 8, 2016.

When we got to the unit, a young Latino deputy was browsing the internet on the unit’s officer computers.

Street plaza was empty, so they gave us our choice of cells. I chose an end cell (quieter). It turned out my cell was also at a scanner, where the deputy (same one playing on the internet) had to make rounds, wave a key fob and then turn around.

About 30 minutes after I arrived, I asked the deputy during a pass at my cell, “Do you think I can get toilet paper, soap, and something to brush my teeth with? I’ve been on the road since 6 a.m.”

“I’ll see,” he told me.

A few minutes later, more inmates moved into the unit; more started asking for basic toiletries.

Next round (15 minutes later), I asked again. He told me he didn’t have a chance to check. Must’ve been too busy on the internet.

Correction law requires jails and prisons to provide basic toiletries. If inmates were denied toilet paper and a tooth brush, incarceration would be much more dehumanizing than it already is.

Next round, I said to the deputy, “Please, deputy, can I get supplies? I left prison at 6 a.m. and haven’t been able to use the bathroom or brush my teeth.”

“When I check.”

Each round, I asked, and each time, he gave me the same variation of not having time to check. After each round, I’d watch him return to the computer and the internet.

Finally, at 10:30 p.m. when I asked again, he told me, “I don’t have anything to give you.”

I am aware each unit has an entire supply cabinet full of everything. I asked politely, “Can I please see someone with stripes?” That is a supervisor.

He stopped. He asked why I wanted to see someone with stripes. I told him, “Because I’m entitled to use the bathroom, and you won’t give me what I need.”

“They’ll be around on rounds at 3 a.m., if you’re awake,” he replied.

I asked if he could radio someone and tell them I need to see them. He told me no.

“What’s your name, deputy?” I asked.

He turned his back on me, and as he started to march away, responded, “My name? It’s Deputy Go Fuck Yourself.”

Name tags are so small, you have to be close to read them. I couldn’t see his. I never did get supplies that night, or the next morning. It wasn’t until almost noon the next day that I was given basic toiletries so I could use the toilet, brush my teeth, and wash my hands with soap – 30 hours since I’d been given that basic human dignity.

Four days later, I was moved to a normal housing unit and found a Monroe County Jail handbook in my cell. Page 13: Upon admission to the jail, inmates will be provided with personal care items including soap, toothbrush, tooth paste, toilet paper.

Not only did Deputy Go Fuck Yourself violate Correction Law, but he violated his own boss’ policies.

Monroe County Jail requires that inmates get permission to file an internal complaint. How many jail deputies do you think are going to give an inmate permission to file a complaint about the jail?

 

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