When you live in a cramped, cinder-block box, small changes in living arrangements have a big impact. So when Gideon realized his new cellmate (we’ll call him Max) hadn’t showered in three days, he knew the new guy would be a problem.
Max’s lack of personal hygiene wasn’t overlooked by Gideon, one of the cleanest inmates you’ll find. Twice a week, Gideon forces out his celly—regardless of who it is—to disinfect his cell.
Gideon has two other reasons for disliking Max: He is black and a smoker. “I don’t really consider myself a racist, but there might be a little bit there,” Gideon admitted. Gideon has had plenty of black friends but doesn’t want to live with a black inmate.
Gideon also doesn’t like the fact that Max is a relative newbie. Max hasn’t been in prison very long, so “he doesn’t really know how to do his time,” Gideon said.
To the hole you go
Since Gideon doesn’t care for his new cellmate, he is trying to evict him and find another cell for him. “I got to find him somewhere to go,” Gideon said.
Gideon thought he would get another celly without putting in much effort when Max was sent to the hole (solitary confinement) for ostensibly threatening two guards. Max said he would “smack the shit” out of someone, and the guards thought he was talking to them. Gideon said the situation was made into something it wasn’t and wasn’t a big deal.
After being incarcerated for more than 20 years, Gideon is very familiar with the hole and the disciplinary process. He fully expected Max to get shipped to another prison. In fact, he packed up Max’s belongings in anticipation of the move. However, the foul celly returned after five days.
‘You have to manipulate the system‘
At other prisons, Gideon has kicked out unwanted cellies permanently, but that’s not an option at his current location. To get Max out, Gideon must go through the unit manager, who assigns inmates to cells.
“Initially, they stick you with someone, and you have to deal with it,” explained Gideon. He adds that he must put up with his smelly celly until he can get a new one. He can’t give up.
Obviously, as an inmate, Gideon can’t force the unit manager to do anything. The only thing he has as a bargaining chip is the fact that he doesn’t bother her often. “You have to manipulate the system to get them to do what you want,” he said.
Gideon had hoped to have a new cellmate by the end of Max’s first week, but that deadline has come and gone. He cut short our conversation to try to persuade the unit manager to assign him a new living companion.
Even though Max is back in his cell, Gideon said things have improved. “He has a better attitude now than when he left,” Gideon snickered.