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A Typical Day At South
Recently I asked an inmate what he thought his friends and family at home would look for on the Sheriff's Department web site.
"Besides visiting hours and how to add money to an inmate's books," I asked, "what would your friends and family be interested in reading on our website?"
He said the only thing he thought they would be curious about was the everyday routine of an average inmate. How do they spend their day?
The Inmates live in military style barracks that house approximately 80-90 inmates each. Each barrack has a "count box," which is a white spray painted box in front where the inmates stand for count.
In the morning the inmates wake up and prepare for count and breakfast. Without an alarm clock to interrupt the morning silence, they rely on their bunk-mates, or "bunkies," to wake each other. Then the call goes out over the intercom; "We will be going to count in 10 minutes. Get up, get dressed and line up in the count box."
One barrack will exit, line up in the count box, and get counted. Once they are accounted for, they walk back, single file, and pick up a bagged breakfast. The breakfast, or "chow," consists of cereal, spoon, 2 hardboiled eggs, 2 slices of bread, jelly, and milk. Once they return, the next barrack will exit and repeat the same process.
After breakfast the cleaning supplies are unlocked so the inmates can clean their barracks. All the inmates who work outside the facility are also escorted to a holding area where they are processed out and proceed to their work assignments. Some of the outside inmate jobs include: dog grooming, nursery, shooting range, bike shop, car wash, welding, landscaping, painting, masonry, wood shop, maintenance, and kitchen.
After cleanup, the Inmates are issued clean linens. Again, each barrack is lined up in the count box one by one. They receive clean jump suits, towels, boxers, socks, and t-shirts. While they are lined up in front of the barrack, a security check is conducted and their beds are searched for contraband (especially drugs, and weapons).
The orientation video is then played on each television so the new inmates can become familiar with the daily routine. The video lists the rules which are also posted in the barracks. It also explains how inmates should interact with each other and the Sheriff's Department staff.
When the new inmates arrive on the bus from downtown they enter the processing area where their property is searched and they are given housing locations. They are then taken to their barracks where they receive an impromptu orientation by the barrack representative.
After the inmate orientation video ends, the inmates are given an hour of music to stimulate them neurologically. Then the television is turned on for the remainder of the day. Showers, books, checkers, chess, cards, and dominoes are also available inside their barracks all day long. The phones are on and available all day long for inmates to call their families. Each compound is scheduled for an hour each day, Monday through Friday, for yard time where the inmates can play soccer, volleyball, basketball, or use the pull-up bars.
At mid-day lunch is brought down to each barrack. Once again, the inmates line up one barrack at a time, in the count box. They return to their barrack single file, grabbing a bagged lunch on the way. The lunch consists of a sandwich (either peanut butter and jelly, or bologna), 1 apple, chips or carrots, 2 cookies, and orange juice. The cleaning supplies are unlocked again for the inmates to clean up the barracks.
Shortly after lunch, the outside work crews return to be processed back into the facility. They are searched for any contraband in the processing area and sent back to their barracks where they are able to shower and get ready for afternoon count. The inmates who are assigned to classes, such as M.E.R.I.T., are separated into classrooms all day during this time. Things like attorney visits and dental or medical visits happen in between all of the other events that take place.
After the inmates are all accounted for, the evening chow begins. Each compound, one by one, sends their inmates up to the inmate dining area where they receive a hot meal. The hot meal consists of some sort of hot entre, fruit, cooked vegetables, doughnut, and milk. When they return from the evening meal they are given one more opportunity to clean. It usually takes about two to three hours to get everyone fed.
The inmates then have the rest of the evening, until about bedtime, to write letters play games, watch television, socialize, or make phone calls. Then they are counted one more time before they retire for the night. They are not required to sleep, but they are required to remain on their bunks quietly, with lights out, so other inmates can sleep. Some continue to write letters, some pray, and some use the quiet time to reflect.
On Saturday and Sunday, the usual routine is put on hold so the inmates can receive visits from their family and friends. The counts, meals, phones, T.V. time, and M.E.R.I.T classes are consistent, but everything else stops for the weekend. There are also Chaplains of many different denominations that visit so the inmates can practice their religious views.
There is definitely a sort of "freedom" here that inmates won't experience in many other jails. That is a typical day at South.
Pitchess Detention Center, South Facility
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
29330 The Old Road
Castaic, CA 91384
Inmate Info: (213) 473-6100
Inmates study Math.
Mowing the lawn.
A little yard time.
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