TALES FROM THE PEN


Our correspondent Yolo is currently serving a sentence at a facility in Ferriday, Louisiana. The following has been transcribed (with minimal edits for clarity and format) from handwritten letters. Because of barriers that restrict and complicate communication with people in prison, we are unable to independently corroborate claims herein.


Hurricane Ida

Imagine being incarcerated 100s of miles away from family and friends during a natural [disaster]. Now imagine all that with no electricity or running water. That’s what me and 45 other men had to endure for Hurricane Ida. Here lies some of the grueling details. The dorm is no bigger than a 2 or 3 bedroom home with no walls. So you can’t fathom the smell 45 unshowered men can let off. On top of that we had to piss and shit in trash bags that stayed in the dorm also. So saying it smelled bad was an understatement, it was unbearable at times. Now remember you’re around 45 other convicts so tempers flare. Fights, stabbing, you name it. The guards are agitated so they take it out on us inmates. The food was never good to start with and now they have less resources to cook with, commissary closed down, you can’t reach out to family and friends because wallphones are off. Even those with cell phones can’t use them cause it’s no way to charge them up. This went on for 8 days.

After maybe the 3rd day I was totally miserable and drained but sleep didn’t come easy with the smell and the heat. Plus, I had been days without showering so I was uncomfortable in the worst ways. I smelled, I itched, and so much more. I couldn’t stomach the food that was being served so all I had to eat was the chips that came with lunch every day. Again, there was no running water but the jail provided bottled water with every meal (thank God). Although they were hot as fish grease it was better than nothing. Laundry didn’t go out for a week so everyone’s clothing was funky to say the least.

It was too hot to move around or lay down so you had to pick your poison. The jail ended up providing board and card games for entertainment but all that did was start more arguments and fights at the end of the day. So they ended up being confiscated by guards pretty soon. I mean it got so hectic one day the warden himself passed cigarettes to every inmate in exchange for us to calm down so that they could clear their count. You know we took advantage of that and requested joes for everything after that. Things were so bad most times the warden came through for us, saying we really appreciate you working with us through this very difficult time.

The dorm I was housed in was the program dorm but all classes were postponed until further notice. So people’s time was on hold and they couldn’t receive the credits they needed to go home on time. So on top of the unbearable living conditions some dudes had to stay in jail longer than expected. So you know that started other problems. With no power the only updates we got were from the guards and every single one of them had their own ideas of what was taking place and how long it would last for. I’ve been in jail almost 8 years now and that was the worst 8 days by far. I’ve never in my 27 years of living been a week without showering and pray I never have to do it again. Thanks to God everyone I was around was safe and OK. I heard of no one’s family members being hurt or worse.

After I believe the 6th day the lights came back on and two days later we had running water. 

We ended up getting credit for the 8 days in class, just had a lot of catch up work to do which wasn’t all bad. We needed something to get our minds off that terrible week we went through. So at the end of the day we were all OK, just a little funky, tired, and uncomfortable. But things were back to normal. Hurricane Ida did a number on the state of Louisiana and its residents, even us incarcerated felt its wrath. Exactly 16 years to the day of Hurricane Katrina, which was one of the most disastrous storms in history, we had to endure Ida. Coincidence or not I pray I never have to go through anything like that again.

Signing out until next time, 

Yolo