A Whole New World Part 10 Read Count : 19

Category : Blogs

Sub Category : Motivation
The whole idea of the prison system is not to punish, but to rehabilitate. But the method of rehabilitation.... to me, on paper it may look pretty, but the reality of what really goes down behind those concrete walls, that's a whole other story. 

Basically there are generally five types of inmates in the prison system - the general population, the mentally disturbed, the dead man walking, the Check-Ins, and the rule breakers. 

The general population consists of any Tom, Dick or Harry who were sent to prison to serve time for their crime. The range is anywhere from petty, small time criminals to career hardcore criminals. They are all put together in general population that makes up the prison society. 

The mentally disturbed are those through stress and pressure of prison life had made them snap to the point where they can no longer control their emotions. Many of them are housed in the Crisis Stabilization Unit where heavily medicated inmates, some in straitjackets, are confined in barren rooms. They are so mentally disturbed to the point where it is shown in their behaviour. It is pretty common to see some of these mentally disturbed inmates mumbling to themselves and/or screaming for no apparent reason, and some would even smear their own feces on the walls. 

The dead man walking are the inmates awaiting execution on Death Row. Their days are numbered. They are confined to their own cells 24 hours a day, allowed out only three times a week to shower and twice a week to exercise in the recreation yard. They are the only prisoners in the system who are allowed to have their own TV set in their cell - a small 13 inch black and white TV. These gray skinned men on Death Row spend most of their time sleeping. Only a few of them take an interest to paint or read Bibles or horror novels. 

The Check-Ins are those who voluntarily seek institutional protection for whatever reason. Check-In or Protective Custody is a temporary arrangement. These inmates are reviewed by the Psychology Department every four months. There is no specific time limit for their duration of stay in Protective Custody. They could be put in for transfer back to general population after their first four months, or they can even check out at any time after thirty days in confinement and go back into general population. 

The rule breakers are those put into confinement for disciplinary reasons. They are usually housed with a room partner; 2 men to a cell. But if anyone who is already in confinement caught breaking any of the institutional rule, they would be thrown into "the hole" where they pretty much lose everything. It's like being locked up in a mini prison in prison. Even from way back when The Rock first opened, the effect of prolonged isolation was already a known fact. Back in the day, solitary confinement was a small outdoor cell that was closed off during the day so the temperature in the cell would rise to a very uncomfortable level, then opened at night so the mosquitoes would feed on the inmates. It was a very cruel and inhuman way of rehabilitation and the prolonged effect of that method did more harm than good. That system have been abolished. 

After four months of being in Protective Custody, Carl was due for his psychological evaluation. Miss Patricia, a beautiful woman in her thirties, was the psychologist who came to talk to him. Escorted by two officers, she requested to have her review session with him at the recreation yard. 

It was a beautiful day with clear blue skies. Miss Patricia took a seat on a bench while the two officers hovered close by. Carl who had not been outside of his cell for four months took in his surrounding before he sat down. He immediately noticed how smart the psychologist looked in her pale blue pant suit which complemented the sky. She had a warm smile and when she spoke, her voice had a nice soft tone, which made him feel at ease in her presence. 

"So how are you today, Carl?" 

"I'm good. Well, as good as I can be in a situation like this." 

She smiled. 

"Are you eating okay?" 

"Yes." 

"Everything okay with you in confinement? Any problems adjusting?" 

"Everything's fine." 

She smiled again. 

"Are you fine enough to go back to gen pop?" 

Carl was taken aback by her question which almost triggered a panic attack. 

"No! I'm not ready for that," he said quickly, "please don't make me go back in there. Not just yet." 

She immediately noticed the change in his demeanor. As a psychologist, she was trained to read people and she could see that he was not faking his fear. She could clearly detect the plea in his voice and she felt sorry for him. But as a professional, she kept her feelings hidden and in check. Her job was to evaluate him and to write a report on his progress. 

"So what have you been doing to occupy your time here, Carl?" 

"I've been doing a lot of reading and also some writing." 

"Writing? What do you write?" 

"Oh you know, stuff. Poems mostly." 

She smiled. 

"Are you a good poet, Carl?" 

Carl grinned. His nervousness disappeared. 

"I'd like to think so. I've only started writing poems recently so I'm new at it." 

"Why poems, Carl?" 

Carl shrugged his shoulders and thought for a moment. 

"I don't know. Maybe it's the freedom of writing a poem, you know? There are no hard and fast rules. No boundaries or limit." 

She smiled. 

"You must let me read some of your poems sometime." 

"Sure." 

"So what else is new with you? 

"My request to be an orderly was approved. I put in the request when I first checked in and it was approved this morning," he replied, beaming with pleasure. 

"That's great, Carl. Congratulations! You must be very happy. I know the waiting list usually takes very long." 

"Yes. I must have had a stroke of good luck. I start my duties tomorrow." 

She smiled again. 

"Okay, you seem to be doing fine in here and you seem excited about your new job so I'll give you time to deal with your fear and  we'll chat again in four months time. And Carl, good luck with your job tomorrow." 

"Thank you, ma'am." 

And with that, Carl's evaluation was done and he had secured himself more time in Protective Custody. They walked back into the building where he was escorted back to his cell. The review went well and he was relieved and happy.

Two weeks later....

The door slid open with a slow rumble of steel. In a quick glance, the room appeared empty. On a closer look, at the corner of the room, on the floor, sat a man wearing a helmet with his back against the wall. His eyes darted to the open door. A mixture of caution and weary was evident on his face. His five feet seven inches, scrawny, unkempt body stiffened as though he was preparing himself for a face off. But when a familiar face walked in, tension left his body and a pure, genuine smile appeared, lighting up his face. And the door slid close with the same slow rumble. 

"Heya buddy, how ya doin'?" 

Lil' Milton was locked up in his own mental hell. At the same time, he was also physically confined in a mental hell. He was one of those guys who were fed with psychotropic medications daily. That was done for his own good, so they say. The medication  was to keep him in control so he would not hurt himself, so they say. But Carl didn't buy it. He personally felt that it was the only way they could handle Lil' Milton in the joint; by keeping him doped up on chemicals. Due to the crazy amount of drugs he was forced to take daily, the little balance he had as a human being had totally fucked up. 

Lil' Milton had such a simplicity of spirit which had set him apart from the rest of the "unsound" minds there. There were a lot of guys in the joint who would fake it by playing the "psycho roll" to get out of work, or simply to get high. And there were also those who were so sexually oppressed that they would subject themselves to the medications just so they could get close to the female nurses in the infirmary of the psychology department. Lil' Milton was different. His condition was legit. 

"I've got something for you," Carl said, pulling out five packets of honey buns from his pockets and laid them in a straight line on the floor in front of Lil' Milton. He then sat cross legged facing him. 

Lil' Milton's eyes sparkled at the sight of the buns. He took a packet and carefully opened the cellophane on the plastic wrapper. Then he took out the bun, placed it on his lap and carefully folded the wrapper into a neat square. After that, he picked up the bun and sniffed it with his eyes closed, as if he was savoring the aroma. He paused for a moment then put the bun on his lap and opened another packet, repeating everything he did in the exact same way. He did that with all five packets. 

Carl watched in amazement without saying a word. What Lil' Milton was doing felt like a sacred ritual that should not be interrupted. Once he had all five buns out of the wrappers, he wolfed them down ravenously like as though he was afraid someone might take them away from him. 

"Thank you," Lil' Milton said after he finished wolfing down the last bun. He wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his blue uniform and smiled in satisfaction. 

Carl smiled and nodded his head. He couldn't bring himself to speak as he felt a lump the size of a golf ball in his throat. He had never before seen anything like what he had just witnessed. For those few moments, Lil' Milton seemed completely in control of himself. He seemed focused and distracted from the torment of his pain. For those few moments, he seemed free like as though the 'demons' in his head had taken a hike. 

Lil' Milton was formerly housed at the "Flat Top", a place where the unmanageable inmates were housed. But with so many unmanageable cases there, he was transfered to Protective Custody where they felt he would get better care. They felt he was a threat to himself so they wanted to keep a close eye on him as they were concerned for his safety. 

Carl first noticed him when he was doing his rounds as an orderly. Each time he rolled by Lil' Milton's cell to send his food tray or even when he dropped by to see if he needed anything, Lil' Milton would just look at him without saying a word. He didn't smile or frown, he just had a placid look on his face. He was the only guy in the entire prison who wore a helmet at all times. Carl used to wonder about that and one day he asked one of the senior orderly about it. 

"Hey, what's the deal with Lil' Milton and the helmet?" 

"That's no ordinary helmet. It's custom-made. Padded." 

"Yeah, but what's the deal?" 

"To protect himself." 

"To protect himself?" 

"Yeah. He would bash his head against the wall when he gets into one of his episodes. He won't stop even when he draws blood. The helmet is for his own safety." 

Carl was intrigued. He wanted to know more about Lil' Milton's story and being an orderly, he had the opportunity to get close to any of the inmates in Protective Custody. So one day, he took a few packets of honey buns and a bag of Maxwell House Coffee from the food cart. He also grabbed a deck of playing cards and made his way to Lil' Milton's cell. He informed the officer on duty that he was going to have a visit with Lil' Milton. It was the day after Lil' Milton's psyche evaluation with the psychologist so he used that as an excuse for his intended visit. As an orderly, it was part of his job to accompany the psychologist when they make their rounds for psyche evaluation. He would push the key locked cart that contained all the files of each inmate in Protective Custody when he accompanied the psychologist for the evaluation sessions. 

The evaluation rounds would take place once a week and he would accompany the psychologist in case any of the inmates needed assistance or reassurance. Even though everybody in solitary confinement knew the drill; that they would have to have their weekly chats with the psychologist, not everyone was willing to open up. That was where the orderly comes in, to more or less make the inmates feel more comfortable by having one of their own present during the chats. So when Carl informed the officer he was going to have a visit with Lil' Milton, the officer did not suspect anything. Carl wasn't sure how his visit would be received. He wasn't even sure if Lil' Milton would talk to him but he sure as hell was going to try his best to reach out to the mysterious man in the white padded helmet. 

Lil' Milton was sitting on his bed when he walked in. He handed him the honey buns as well as the bag of coffee and waited for him to say something but he kept his silence. He watched Lil' Milton's face for any kind of reaction but he saw nothing. He continued to sit still as a statue and Carl was desperate to break the ice. 

"Do you mind if I sit down?" 

Lil' Milton eyed him suspiciously then quickly pulled the packets of honey buns towards him. Carl watched his reaction and immediately understood what was playing in his head. 

"Don't worry. I'm not gonna take them. I brought them for you." 

Only then did he seem to relax a little. He motioned for Carl to sit. That was the first time Carl witnessed his meticulous way of unwrapping each bun, folding the wrappers, and sniffing them before he devoured them. He never said a word while he ate the buns. Only after he finished scoffing the last one did he say thank you. 

"Were they good?" 

Lil' Milton nodded. 

"You like them?" 

He nodded again. 

"Okay, I'll bring you more the next time I come visit you." 

Lil' Milton beamed with pleasure. 

"Hey, do you wanna play some cards?" Carl asked. 

He nodded. 

Carl shuffled the cards and they played a game of gin rummy. While they played, Carl talked about general things. He noticed Lil' Milton's body began to relax, and wasn't wound up so tight. When Carl cracked a joke and Lil' Milton laughed out loud, he was pleased for he could tell Lil' Milton was warming up to him. When Lil' Milton tried to make small conversation, his words were disjointed that he hardly made any sense half of the time. But Carl didn't mind. He could sense that Lil' Milton was different. At a time where his own situation was so utterly fucked up, meeting Lil' Milton and having an opportunity to have someone other than himself to think about was like a God send to Carl. 

"Hey Milton, may I ask you something?" 

"Yeah." 

"Why do you bash your head against the wall?" Carl asked bluntly. He didn't believe in beating around the bush, not in that moment. 

Lil' Milton froze. He stopped dealing the cards and looked Carl right in the eye as if he was sizing him up. Carl panicked for a moment; afraid it was too soon for him to dig that deep into his business. He didn't look away from Lil' Milton's poring eyes as he waited for him to respond. But what he saw in them and what he heard next, truly wrenched his gut. 

"I have to get the demons out." 

Carl fell silent. What could he possibly say in response to a statement like that? When he looked at Lil' Milton's situation and compared it to his own, he learned that there are things he can be grateful for, despite how bad he thought he's had it. That day marked a very significant day in both their lives. There they were, two tormented souls living in a cruel, dark world, trying hard to find themselves. Instead, they had found each other and a special bond had built between them. 

After that day, Carl went by to visit as often as he was allowed to. Sometimes once a week, sometimes twice a week. And each time he visited, he made sure he brought Lil' Milton's favourite treats with him; the honey buns. Their friendship grew and went on strong for four months until one morning when he was doing his rounds and he rapped their secret code on Lil' Milton's door and there was no reply. He found that to be odd. Alarmed, he rushed over to the officer on duty. 

"Excuse me, Officer Kemp, would you mind checking on Lil' Milton? There was no reply when I rapped on his door." 

"Oh, you haven't heard, Shorty? He passed away in his sleep last night." 

Carl felt his knees buckle. 
No!!! Lil' Milton's gone....???? 

"What happened?" His voice came out barely a whisper. 

"I don't know. I imagine it had something to do with repeated concussions, or maybe even a tumor in his brain." 

Sitting on his bed, a tear rolled down his cheek at the memory of his friend. It had been two months since Lil' Milton's passing and Carl had missed him. He was still grieving for him. He wasn't sure why, but Lil' Milton had been heavy on his mind from the moment he woke up that morning. 

When he looked back on the incredible relationship he had with Lil' Milton, he considered how delicate a balance the human mind is. Lil' Milton was on an entirely different page. But as limited a balance as his mind was, he was there, present in his own way. Carl's entire concept of life and people changed from his interaction with Lil' Milton. He knew there are some people who had never known kindness, or love, and Lil' Milton had been incredibly abused. How exactly? Carl honestly had no idea. All he knew was that Lil' Milton lived moment by moment. He often wondered if there had ever been love or kindness or even affection in Lil' Milton's life. He wasn't even sure if Lil' Milton ever knew any of it. But Carl knew God puts certain people in his life for specific reasons and he was grateful for the opportunity to have met Lil' Milton. He had no clue what was "normal" in most situations, yet, while he was visiting Lil' Milton, spending time safely tucked away from his own circumstance and having fun back there in the infirmary, he had found a certain refuge in a very dark place and time in his life. He forgot about his own problems just by being with Lil' Milton. His infectious laugh, his genuine smile, he was the one place Carl could go to that didn't require masks or pretense. Yes, Lil' Milton was as real as they come. 

He opened his footlocker and stared in there for a moment. There were still six packets of honey buns sitting in there, the same ones he had brought with him on that fateful morning when he learned the news of his friend's passing. The buns were all mouldy now but he still kept them in his footlocker as a token of remembrance. He closed his eyes and offered a silent prayer for Lil' Milton before he shut his footlocker. 

"Rest in peace, my brother, and rest well. The demons can't get to you now. You are free at last. You have won."

Death is often associated with darkness, but in the place and situation Carl was in, darkness seemed to be his new normal. Still, God works in mysterious ways. Through the darkness of Carl's reality, he was shown light. He was able to see the light in his dark reality from seeing the darkness in Lil' Milton's reality. Was it all a coincidence? No. Divine intervention was indeed in play.

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