Harsh Consequences

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Chapter 7

By the time the prison van eventually arrived at its destination Mitch was well and truly over it. His back hurt. His arse was numb. His pod companion snored for most of the trip. Mitch was a little envious the guy could even sleep.

After passing all the security clearances, the van moved into the prison grounds. Mitch stared out the small window. His mouth became dry. His pulse rate quickened. The time had come to move into prison life. Only problem was, he wasn’t ready.

After a short wait, the door to his pod swung open. A prison guard holding a clip board stood in the doorway.

‘Step down,’ he ordered in a firm and direct tone.

Mitch stepped from the van first. He stretched his arms over his head and yawned, while his travel companion alighted from the vehicle behind him.

More accustomed to these arrivals, his travel companion walked passed Mitch without saying a word and moved to join the line of six other men standing side-by-side.

The guard gestured with his clipboard towards the gathered men. ‘Move over and stand with your toes on the yellow line. Say nothing until you’re spoken to.’

Mitch tried to remain calm. He tried not to show his intimidation. His rounded shoulders, lowered head and darting eyes screamed anything but calm. This was how he imagined the army would be; strict discipline and a Drill Sergeant barking out orders.

Like an obedient pupil on his first day at a new school, Mitch did as instructed. He joined the end of the line. He made sure his toes were well behind the thin yellow line.

The guard moved around and stood in front of them. He passed his eyes along the line. While looking to his left, the guard frowned. He walked over to one of the men standing to Mitch’s right.

The Guard deliberately held his glare down at the man’s feet, which we were forward of the yellow line on the ground. He lifted his eyes and glared at the inmate. The inmate rolled his eyes and took a step back behind the line.

‘Are we going to have a problem Gianakopoulos…?’

‘No boss…’ the man said with a tone of indifference.

The Guard nodded and moved to stand centrally, out front of the line. The Guard gestured to the other end from Mitch. ‘Starting with you…each of you will call out your name and CRN…’ the Guard said. He pointed to his left. ‘Go.’

CRN…? What the hell is a CRN? Mitch was too frightened to ask.

One-by-one names were called out to Mitch’s right, followed by a number. The guard checked the names off his list.

When the guard glared at Mitch, Mitch said, ‘Mitchell Max Dunne…’ The guard crossed Mitch’s name off. ‘I don’t know my CRN…’ Mitch said. ‘Should I…?’

Some of the men in line sniggered like juvenile school kids. The guard’s eyes lifted from the clipboard to Mitch. He held his glare at Mitch, allowing several beats to pass. Mitch swallowed heavily and looked away. This guard scared the hell out of him.

‘You are allocated a CRN, or a Corrections Reference Number when you have previously been in prison, been convicted of an offence, or been on an Intensive Corrections Order or a Community Based Order…OK…?’

Mitch didn’t know whether he could answer or not, so he nodded.

After roll call the inmates were led inside, single file, into a holding cell. The heavy door clanged shut behind them. To Mitch, it was a sound synonymous with prisons, but he still couldn’t get used to it. That sound was a constant reminder that his freedom had been wrongfully snatched from him.

While standing in the holding cell with his soon-to-be new companions, Mitch took a typical first time glance around. There was nothing in this cell; no bed, no chair, no toilet, just four drab cream coloured walls, a window two-thirds of the way up the wall with horizontal bars and a door. The painted concrete floor was well worn and scuffed.

Some of the inmates in the room knew one another and engaged in conversation. Mitch kept to himself. Every five or so minutes the cell door opened and a Guard called out a prisoner’s name. The named inmate left the room with a guard and never returned.

Mitch was the last to go. He stood alone in the cold cell waiting for his turn. He paced the floor, rubbing his perspiring hands down his thighs. This was all new to him. What the hell is going on? He didn’t have to wait long for his answer. The door swung open.

‘Step forward,’ the Guard ordered.

Mitch nervously eyed the Guard as he stepped from the holding cell. In subconscious subservience, Mitch’s head was lowered and his shoulders slumped as he followed the Guard down a long hall with blank cream coloured walls.

After a short walk he arrived at the property counter; a wide open counter with rows of free standing shelving behind it, filled with blue boxes, green tracksuits and white runners .

The Guard placed a large, blue plastic storage box with an opaque lid onto the counter. It was about the size of a standard esky.

‘This will be your property box…’ the Guard said.

The guard pointed to a well-worn thick, yellow and black striped line on the ground. ‘Stand behind that…’

Mitch positioned himself as instructed. After checking his toes were where they needed to be, his eyes lifted back to the Guard, who by this time held a camera. He took Mitch’s photo, presumably as a reference to the property owner.

Regardless of the photo’s purpose, no permission was sought prior to taking it. He no longer had any rights. He was essentially the property of the Corrections Department.

‘What size shoe do you wear?’ The guard barked, matter-of-fact.

‘Ah...nine and a half.’

The guard collected two sets of bottle green track suits and a pair of runners with Velcro flaps, instead of laces, from the shelves behind him. He dumped them onto the counter on top of black carry bag.

Mitch noticed the guard now wore blue disposable gloves. Why does the Guard have to wear protective gloves when handling these clothes? What is on these clothes that he doesn’t want to catch? He couldn’t help but wonder who before him had worn these very same clothes.

‘Two sets of greens. One to wear. One to wash,’ the Guard said. ‘Put what you are wearing in here…’ the guard tapped the lid of the blue storage box. ‘Put one of the green track suits on, and the other in there,’ he tapped the black bag.

Mitch did as instructed. He bundled up his civilian clothes, including his shoes and placed them into the blue storage box, along with all his other property—watch, wallet, necklace.

He glanced down at his unappealing, new baggy green clothing and runners. This would be his uniform for the next few months—at least.

The Guard gestured towards his right. ‘Move to the strip room.’

Mitch glanced in the direction indicated by the Guard. The strip room…?. He frowned. He did not like the sound of that.

Visions of prison movies flashed into his mind, the ones where new inmates cowered naked against a shower room wall while the laughing Guards hosed them down with a high pressure fire hose. Mitch’s timid eyes darted as he strolled to the strip room.

Mitch followed the guard into a small room around two metres by two metres. A white plastic moulded chair was the only furniture in the room. The Guard closed the door.

‘Put that there…’ The guard gestured to the chair.

Mitch placed the bag with his change of tracksuit onto the chair.

‘Strip off. Place your clothes on the chair.’

Mitch disrobed completely. He stood naked in front of the Guard. He had no problem with nudity, but this was degrading.

The Guard ran his gloved fingers behind Mitch’s ears. He pointed to Mitch’s mouth. ‘Open your mouth.’ Mitch complied. ‘Lift your tongue.’ Mitch did as instructed.

‘Lift your arms.’

The Guard checked under Mitch’s arms. He pointed to Mitch’s groin.

‘Lift ya tackle…’ Mitch complied. ‘Turn around. Bend forward. Spread your cheeks.’

Mitch had reached a new low. He stood naked in a small closet bending over spreading his bum cheeks so a Guard can look up his arse to make sure nothing was hidden up there. Any dignity he had was checked in with his property when he arrived in prison.

After the strip search the Guard weighed Mitch.

‘OK. Get dressed,’ the Guard said.

Once he was dressed Mitch’s questioning eyes met the Guard’s firm glare. The guard pointed to Mitch’s black bag. ‘OK grab that. Follow me.’

From the strip room the Guard escorted Mitch to a toilet. He handed Mitch a small plastic cup with a yellow lid. ‘I need a urine sample…’ He gestured to the toilets.

Mitch glanced over his shoulder as he entered the toilet. The Guard followed him in. It was bad enough bending over and opening his butt to this guy, but now he had to take a piss while he watched on.

Once filled, he handed the Guard the plastic cup. The guard wrote some details on the label attached to the sample and placed the cup into a clear zip lock bag.

‘OK follow me down to your unit.’

Mitch scooped up his bag. Now this got real. The unit, as the Guard called it, was where the other prisoners would be. He would have to mingle with other inmates who were inside for who-knows-what. He could feel the tension in his stomach. His chest tightened. He didn’t want to be there.

As he strolled he couldn’t help but wonder who his cell mate would be. Would they get along? What crime did he commit to be in here? He hoped his cell mate wasn’t a 150 kilo bald-headed dude who goes by the name, ‘Bubba’. Sure, that’s probably a Hollywood prison movie stereotype, but regardless, he did not want to become Bubba’s bitch, or an Australian prison version thereof.

They exited the prisoner reception area via a door to the rear. The Guard used a key from a chain attached to his belt. After stepping through the door they were outside. Even the heavily clouded sky seemed to be closing down on him.

High, tightly woven wire mesh fences lined either side of the concrete path. The Guard unlocked a heavy steel reinforced wire mesh gate with razor wire on top and directed Mitch through.

As he strolled, woven wire mesh fences were on either side. Somewhere in the distance a loud speaker barked out instructions. Mitch could see various outdoor areas such as fields and basketball courts through the wire mesh fences. Beyond that were several two-storey blocks of buildings.

He couldn’t see many prisoners in the large outdoor yard area. Clearly, they could see him. They hadn’t travelled far before Mitch was the target of a barrage of shouted abuse hurled at him from all directions.

Voices called from near and far. Some were calling Mitch over to them, others were inviting him to come over and ‘suck on this.’ There were deep voices calling out all sorts of insults and degrading comments.

Interestingly, to Mitch at least, the Guard didn’t seem to have a problem with the verbal abuse, or what was being said. Some of the comments even brought a grin to the Guard's face.

Mitch now had some sympathy for women who stroll passed wolf-whistling builders on a construction site.

Mitch was not a weak man. He could look after himself. But his heart raced as they strolled through the prison grounds, with all those inmates shouting at him. What was worse, he couldn’t see where the voices came from; they were just there.

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