The lights flash. The televisions turn off. A moan of disappointment is heard among the inmates. Slowly but surely the inmates rise out of their chairs and make their way back to their cells. It’s 9pm. It’s Count Time!
Count Time is when every inmate on the entire compound is counted by the officers to make sure everyone is accounted for and have not escaped. It is done every day at 4pm, 9pm, 12am, 3am, and 5am. On weekends, an additional 10am count is done. Let me tell you….it gets old fast. But everyone gets used to it. The 10am, 4pm, and 9pm counts are called stand-up counts. When the two officers that count your unit pass your cell to count you, everyone must be awake and standing. They do the stand up count to make sure everyone is alive and ticking. Seriously.
My very first cellie in county jail told me that back in the 70’s he killed his cellie (welcome to being locked up, Craig!) because his cellie blew cigarette smoke in his face. (This was when cigarettes were allowed in cell prisons). He cleaned up the mess and made his dead cellie look like he was always sleeping during count time. Unfortunately, after a few days, the room started to smell and eventually his body basically exploded. He was forced to tell the officers what he did. That incident is one of the reasons for a stand up count. (and yes, it’s a true story)
Thankfully, during the 12am, 3am and 5am counts, they let you sleep. But they do shine a bright mag light on your face. Since I’m a light sleeper, I’m often aroused from my sleep. Yeah, I guess you can say I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in 47 months now.
It takes anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes to count the entire unit. Unfortunately, there are some very “special” counters here….. counting inmates can be a very difficult task for them. The numbers of the two officers that count each unit must match up before the count is cleared for the unit. In my opinion, counting the inmates should be easy for them. But when they add the top tier and the bottom tier together, it seems to be a little tricky. HA! My record for most recounts during one count time is four. It took nearly an hour for the count to be cleared. This one particular officer continues to work here. She has gotten better, though. On average these days, she usually only has to recount a couple of times a week. But we all groan when we have her as an officer in our building responsible for the count. I can’t imagine why!
Once the numbers are matched up in the unit and the entire compound is accounted for, the count is officially cleared and we can leave our cells and go back to our activities. When I’m finally free from this place, and I’m at home during the times of 10am, 4pm and 9pm, and I randomly stand up, don’t ask questions. You’ll know why!!!! (This was written so you have an idea of what a day is like in the life of an inmate.)