A New Year In Prison By Christopher Monihan


It’s Saturday January 09, 2021 and I’m sitting        here on my bunk writing this. I’ve been busy this morning and afternoon with the dogs I care for. I have a few minutes and so I thought I’d take advantage of it.

I marvel at how every year people tend to see the optimistic possibilities for a new year to come. At 12:00 midnight the world over there are kisses and pledges of new beginnings for a new year. Me? Sure, I’ve been guilty of this.

It has been years though since I’ve done any of that. Why? Well, you’d have to be a prisoner to truly understand but I’ll try to explain. Time is different here. At least, time is different to ME here. New Years is just another day, as are holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. The only thing separating these days from any other are the feelings of sadness birthed by fond memories of years past. I used to love these holidays.

Did you read last week’s post Christmas In Prison by Felicia? She wrote about how Christmas in prison means different things to different people. For her, it’s a painful memory. It’s a reminder of a happier time in her past. Her last ever Christmas dinner with her children. I was struck by the details, both big and small. I came away from her essay wishing I could hug and hold her.

Christmas is like this for me, too. Death stole my younger brother right before Christmas, snuffing out a light somewhere in my soul. Along with Felicia, I spent Christmas clinging to fond memories. Pain. Sadness. Longing.

The start of a new year is similar for me. Celebrating that moment where the clocks click over to a new year is to have to remember the memories I used to find happiness in. I just assume not.

I suppose the whole world is happy to see an end to 2020. The pandemic has worn all of us down. Wouldn’t you agree? At my prison we’ve been shut in to our dorms and cell blocks with absolutely nothing to do since March 2020. There are no social activities save for interactions with those in your immediate housing unit. I find it astounding that the guys haven’t exploded in frustration already.

In September THE WEEK THE APOCALYPSE ARRIVED Covid tore through the facility at one point sickening nearly all 2,500 prisoners. Men died. Of course, you won’t see this in the official count. Not once were we mass tested as is done at facilities across the nation. Who knows why?

The prospect for global happiness in 2021 is high because the pandemic has set the bar so low. 2021 will mark a bounce back year I’d imagine. There are vaccines afterall.

Speaking of which, today all of us received emails from the department stating that the Covid vaccine is here and available to us. I’m shocked. This is very un-Ohio like. So much so that most the guys find it to be suspicious.
The other 364 days of the year we are mere footnotes to the great money machine of corrections. Now suddenly we are important? I imagine that someone somewhere realized it’s cheaper to immunize us than to continue to pretend that all is well.

To emphasize how much the state would like us to take the vaccine, those agreeing to be immunized will be paid for doing so. A small sum designed to get the dumb and the fence sitters to do the right thing. You’d be surprised at how many inmates swear the vaccine is a hoax or part of some experiment being conducted in secret. Yeah, I know.

I’ll happily take the vaccine. I’ve been praying that somehow, someway us inmates would be seen for the high risk group that we are. You want to pay me for the privilege? Fine, I’ll accept. But just know I would’ve gotten immunized if I had to pay for it myself.

So goes the first week of 2021. Maybe the year will bring positive change to Ohio’s 48,000 prisoners? Maybe the powers that be will see us for the human beings that we are. Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. Men and women with families, hopes, and dreams. Maybe things will  change for the better.

Maybe. But I’m not holding my breath.

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