Answer by James "JC" Cavitt, San Quentin Inmate
There is no such thing as a 'typical day' in prison. Things differ drastically from prison-to-prison, person-to-person, and from day-to-day. There's a popular saying amongst inmates about a prison's program: "The only thing consistent about prison is change." That change often happens without notice and at the drop of a dime.
For instance, it can be a beautiful day outside, guys may be working out, playing sports, cards, or just enjoying the fresh air; and in the blink of an eye we're in the middle of a full-scale riot. Paying attention is a MUST HAVE trait in prison; it can literally mean/make the difference between life and death.
Although San Quentin State Prison is known for its notorious past, currently it happens to be the most stable and consistent of all the prisons, at least in my opinion. Here is a typical day for me:
5:30-6:30 AM: Breakfast, a.k.a. 'chow time,' and the start of most guys' day. The breakfast isn't good, so I skip it and sleep in during that hour, which is much needed as you will see.
6:30-7:15 AM: Start day with a morning prayer and devotional reading.
7:15-8:00 AM: Breakfast in my cell and prepare for work. My breakfast usually consists of a bowl of oatmeal or a Danish and a cup of coffee, all of which are sold from the prison's commissary, a.k.a. inmate canteen.
8:00 AM-2:00 PM: Work. I work in the prison's general maintenance shop as a metal-fabricator/welder. I make 32 cents an hour. Yep, you read it right, a whopping 32 cents per hour.
2:00-3:00 PM: Shower grab a bite to eat and prepare for either a self-help group or college class.
3:00-5:00 PM: Self-help group or college class.
5:00-6:00 PM: Dinner. It tends to be better than the breakfast so I go.
6:00-8:00 PM: Another self-help group or college class.
8:00-9:00 PM: Socialize with friends or use the prison phone to talk to my loved ones.
9:00 PM: All inmates are locked in their cells or dorm until breakfast. There is no lights out policy.
9:00-11:00 PM: Watch T.V., listen to music or write a letter, and fix something to eat.
11 PM-12:30 AM: Homework, including play-writing for chapel.
12:30-6:30 AM: Sleep
There is a perception in society that inmates spend all day doing nothing. As you can see that is not always true. I am no exception to the rule. There are more guys spending their time doing something productive than those who are not, especially in a prison like San Quentin that offers programs.
How one spends his time -- be it in prison or out -- is what makes the difference between success and failure. I choose to stay busy and focused because I have chosen to be a future success story.
- Do you remember when the gavel dropped in court with the verdict and what that felt like at that moment?
- Do inmates in San Quentin have access to computers and the Internet? What kind of access?
- What kinds of opportunities do San Quentin inmates have for education degree programs and professional training?
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