Today's kind of slow. Had planned to play softball but it was changed to football, which I've decided to pass on because of my knee. This surprised everyone as I usually play everything, but as I said, that 60th birthday later this month is a solid reminder of my age. I plan to play soccer tomorrow, but prison football is a bit too rough on my old body. Now that I've admitted that I feel better about it. Not!
Responding to that first post Rebecca told me she found the story about hamburger day and condiments fascinating. She said she had no idea that's how it was. When I was surprised that she didn't know any of this she reminded me that I never told her anything about prison. In fourteen years of visits, thousands of emails and hundreds of phone calls I never told her about life inside. She says that most people are curious, so to fill in the gap when I have nothing else to talk about I'll talk about prison life.
Guess I'll start with how I communicate with everyone. We have telephones on the cell-block. I can make a call out but no one can call me. I can only call people on my phone list, but I can change or update that list as often as I want on a contact file that I access through the computer (more on that soon). When I make a call the person on the other end hears a recorded message saying it is a call from a federal prison, then gives my name in my recorded voice. The person I call has several options, one of which is to have their number removed from my list, the other is to accept the call. That done we can talk for up to 15 minutes. In fourteen minutes it warns us that a minute is left, then at fifteen disconnects. I can make a maximum of 300 minutes of phone calls a month, but they increase it to 400 for December only. The call doesn't cost the person I am calling, but I pay .21 cents per minute. So a 15 minute phone call to anywhere in the United States cost me $3.15, a three minute call cost .63 cents. Unless something is going on where I have to make a lot of calls, I rarely reach the 300 minute maximum. I would like to call that much, but the cost is a limiting factor.
We also have email. This is relativity new in the federal system, I think we've had it for six years. Like the phone call, a receiving part has to agree to getting an email from me before I can send it. There is a sign up procedure. I send a request to a person's email account and then they have to do a one time sign up. Once that is done then we can email each other. It's not really email in the classical sense because the person on the street has to go to a web site to send or receive an email from me. They can get a notice sent to their phone that a message is waiting, but they have to go to the web site and sign in to read it and respond. Not what you are used to, but my family and I are thankful to have it. Also like the phone calls, there is no cost to those on the street, but I have to pay ,05 cents a minute so type or read an email. I can log on to the email system for up to 60 minutes at a time, so a full hour of email time cost me $3.00. Cheaper than a fifteen minute phone call, but it too adds up fast. There is no limit to how many email minutes I use as long as I can pay the price.
And of course there is the U.S. Mail. I can send and receive letters to and from anyone with normal postage. I can receive books as long as they come from a book store (even on-line book stores like Amazon) or from the publisher. Same goes for magazines and newspapers. I can get them all with a subscription. I used have a subscription to Wired, Plane & Pilot, and Flying, but they have expired. Yes, Rebecca, that was a hint.
I also have an MP3 player, with music I can purchase and download through a closed system that is accessed through the same computer I get my email on. That computer gives me access to an internal bulletin board, legal research, prescription refills, my contact list (which is how I add someone to my phone and email) and my commissary account information, which allows me to see who sent me money and how much I have left.
We don't have access to the internet in any form. No web sites, not anything like that. In the works are a Skype type video system so I can see and be seen when on the phone, but I hear that is expensive. And it seems in the near future we'll be able to purchase an eReader with eBooks and subscriptions also available. This one makes sense to me because in prison they encourage you to read, but because of other physical concerns limit the number of books you can possess. An eReader seems like a perfect match for prison life. As an avid reader I like this idea a great deal.
That sums up our communications stuff. Will explain visits and other stuff another time. If I run out of things to talk about I can always fall back on the "personalities" of my peers. I can't give anyone's name, but you'll find some of these guys interesting. I certainly do.