Randy A. Breeden
Wintertime is prisoner's toughest challenge
To the editor:
While most people look forward to the wonders of winter, surviving winter is a prisoner's toughest challenge.
The cold, biting winds constantly whistle through the cell blocks, some five tiers high, as the temperature is on a steady downward trend. The massive steel-and-concrete structures hold the dampness and add to the misery of the dank, bone-chilling cold. A prisoner must learn to fight the stress and cheerless cold.
In the early years of prisons in Maryland (1811 for the first prison; early 1900s for a prison in the Jessup area and another in the Hagerstown area), there was not heat for the cells. The only heat was a "bully" burning wood or coal at the end of the cell block where the guards kept watch. The cells were small, only furnished with a cot, a straw corn-husk mattress, three blankets, a filth bucket and a Bible. The Bible was a prisoner's only solace in this time of despondency.
Today, two of these "early" prisons are still in operation. The wood-burning "bully" has been replaced with radiant heat, with blowers running the length of the cell block on the outside wall. Little heat reaches the prisoner in his cell. Indoor plumbing was added in the early 1900s, to everyone's delight.
The more modern prisons being built in Maryland supply each cell with heat. But the often half-mile walk, three times a day, starting at 5 a.m., to the mess hall in the rain, wind and winter snows chills each prisoner to his bones. At the two "early" prisons, prisoners are still back in the Dark Ages as winter creeps into their lives.
At this time, prisoners begin the same routine as animals in the wild, hunkered down, confronting the dankness and waiting for the coming of spring.
Paul H. Inskeep
Inmate No. 211-806
Maryland Correctional Training Center