Draconian new mail rules, spring inspections, summer food orders, baseball season. There’s lots of drama behind these stone walls to distract a writer from writing.
Most readers of These Stone Walls are aware of a new prison mail policy here that took effect on May 1st. I have been posting updates about it over the last few weeks. The policy has been clarified a bit so please bear with me as I try to explain the newest prison mail rules:
- No greeting cards of any type, or for any occasion, are allowed in mail to a prisoner here as of May 1, 2015. I can still purchase cards to send out, but you can no longer send a greeting card to me – not even at Christmas. Bah! Humbug!
The issue seems to be a ban on any paper that is thick or layered such as card stock. Prison Administrators explain the new policy as follows:
“It is important that you keep in mind that the intent of this is NOT to limit a person’s ability to write a letter to an inmate, but to prevent drugs from being hidden within heavy paper stock or mixed with a fluid and dried on the paper – sometimes camouflaged by drawings.”
- Photographs and printed material, including printed images, are still permitted as long as they are printed on plain or “photo-quality” paper. Letters, internet printings, and printed articles are still allowed. So please don’t feel deterred from writing!
- Remember that I receive only the contents of mail and not the envelope. So be sure to include your address in the body of your letters. Each individual mailing is limited to ten physical pages. Please address mail to me as follows:
Gordon J. MacRae
P.O. Box 14 – No. 67546
Concord, NH 03302-0014
- Some readers have sent me gifts in the form of checks or money orders with their letters. This is always appreciated, and far more help than you may know for postage, supplies, even food, clothing and other expenses. Remember that checks or money orders must have the full name and address of sender (no initials), and my name and number (67546). Please do not use any title on the check.
- Please never feel obliged to do this, but if you do, remember to mention the check and amount in your letter. Checks are removed from mail before I receive it, and then deposited into my account. I am sometimes not aware of a check until I receive a monthly statement.
- Do not use a title on the envelope such as “Rev.” or “Fr.” Prison officials have recently refused mail to me for having such titles on the envelope – even though I never even see the envelope. The mail is returned to sender without my even knowing about it. I never encourage use of a title on mail as it calls undue attention to the mail, but now it also causes mail to be rejected. In the body of your letter, however, you may call me whatever you want – within reason!
Actually, I am not as distracted from writing as my introduction implies. I have lots to write about. But it’s semi-annual inspection time behind these stone walls this past week, and that means tearing up this cell, cleaning every square inch – there are 13,824 of them in an 8′ x 12′ cell – and generally making it look as though no one lives here.
Two people can accumulate a lot in six months between inspections, even in a closet-sized prison cell. I have an almost unmanageable problem with paper. Having for the last two years had an open legal case with a still ongoing appeal, I must retain thousands of pages of documents in support of it. On top of that, as you know, I write. So I also try to retain a hard copy of TSW posts for at least the last two years.
And last week, in “Evenor Pineda and the Late Mother’s Day Gift,” my friend “E” told you that he and I are among ten prisoners who serve on the Inmate Communications Committee, or “ICC.” Evenor, besides being co-chairman of that committee, also chairs the Education Subcommittee on which I also serve. I chair another, the Research Subcommittee. On a daily basis, a pile of documents to be reviewed and assimilated crosses my path and must be kept somewhere.
So if the New Hampshire State Prison Warden is reading this, please don’t look under the bunk when you inspect Cell HB1. Thank you.
Meanwhile, I’ll have a better post next week if I can remember where I buried my typewriter.
SUMMER FOOD PACKAGES
I have a post coming up soon about Season Five of the great, but addictive PBS Masterpiece Classic series, Downton Abbey. The season recently ended in the United States, but I wanted to be sure it’s at least underway in Australia before I go issuing “Spoiler Alerts.” It irks me that I have to wait until January 2016 for Season Six: “Labor Pains for Downton Abbey.”
I have also read that producer, Julian Fellows has implied that Season Six will likely be the last. He said he has no wish to drag the Crawley family into World War II and beyond. I simply cannot imagine a reason to even have a television in a world without Downton Abbey.
In January of last year as Season Four commenced, I wrote a post called “Return to Downton Abbey: A Feast for Ordinary Time.” Its return coincided with the arrival of the twice-per-year food packages we had just ordered; so that post included a few “Captive Culinary Creations” you might want to check out.
I’ve also been mesmerized by another popular British TV show on PBS called “The Great British Baking Show.” I gain a pound or so just watching each episode. Only the Brits could turn baking into edge-of-your-seat television drama. It’s wonderful, really! I never knew bakers could thrive under such pressure.
Just after the Spring inspections are over, prisoners here can order a 20-pound summer food package through a vendor called Union Supply. It’s the sole source of coffee beyond the generic instant brand, popularly known as “gun powder,” that’s sold in the prison commissary. Several readers sent me gifts to help with the cost of our food packages, and I thank them profusely. I will think of you every time I wake up and smell the coffee.
THE FIELD OF DREAMS
The prison baseball field also opens this week, and we have anxiously awaited it through a long, hard, and confining New Hampshire winter. From inside this cell, through the barely functioning air vent, I can hear the solid steel door creaking open on the first day of the season.
I mentioned in a post last summer that I once had a dog that came running whenever I used an electric can opener. As you know, our friend Pornchai Moontri, recently earned a post-secondary diploma “with highest honors” in psychology from Stratford Career Institute. When I told him of my reaction every time I hear the ball field door creak open, he said, “Oh great! Pavlov’s priest!”
It’s baseball season, and the “Prisoners of Summer” are forming up their teams this week. I plan to get out to that field to walk in the free air a few mornings a week this summer. Last summer, I wrote about the lure of that field and its rare opportunity for solitude. It’s one of my own favorite posts on These Stone Walls, but you may have missed it the first time around.
So since I do not have a proper post this week, let me refer you to one of my favorite posts for this early summer re-run. It’s a post that explains the difference between solitude and isolation in this most alien of earthly places, an American prison. Please read and share anew, “Dostoevsky in Prison, and the Perils of Odysseus.”
Editor’s Note: In 2015, we’ll need to replace our aging publishing equipment. In your kindness, please take a moment to read the details and share the link on your social media accounts. Thank you for such a strong kickoff!