So we’ve been here nearly a year. T.I., in keeping with its reputation, is on the whole excellent, a really good place to do time by general consensus. The most notable reasons seem to boil down to how relaxed and low-drama/low-politics it is, plus the compound aesthetics: plenty of grass, palm trees and flowers, plus a sweeping view of the harbor from the South Yard (there are 2 yards, both smallish by prison standards: The North is more like a plaza in the center of the various departments and housing units, and the South has a track, softball field (doubling as a soccer or football field—told you it was small!) and basketball court (also has a weight pile)). But yeah, so one has a pretty impressive view of these towering cargo ships, loading cranes, and all kinds of boats pass right by. It’s crazy: huge cargo ships, private sailors, local tour boats, even big luxury liners. Pretty cool.
The walk from the North complex to the South Yard is about 5 minutes and passes through the Unicor complex (they mainly manufacture lockers). Again, virtually all the departments are North side. Unicor is in between, while South includes only rec, education, and the Unicor housing units. They’re newer and nicer, with doors on the rooms, cabinets instead of lockers, but the bathroom/kitchen space is communal.
As for all the other housing units North side, most are dorm-style living. One unit is all cells, one (J, the largest) is mixed cells and dorm living, but the rest, about 5 others, are all super-crowded, open-bay dorms. This may be the biggest T.I. drawback. And even the cells are tiny, like tinier than the norm – 6’ x 9’?? But you’re never locked down (the TV room is not locked at night, so it’s still possible to watch late-night TV any hour; technically the TVs are supposed to be off by midnight, but that’s not enforced too often.).
There are 10-minute moves, medium-custody style. Two metal detectors: one North, one South (in between is just that long stroll from one side to the other). There are laundry facilities both North and South in addition to the institutional laundry.
Another rare drawback: There is virtually no music program here, and the head of rec has been bafflingly resistant to the whole idea, apparently for a few years. There used to be a band program here, but it was scrapped. You can still play drums or piano or acoustic guitar or bass, but rec currently provides no means of plugging in—unlike most compounds apparently—and continues to battle inmates who press for it (the warden, Washington-Adduci—by all accounts a big improvement over the last guy—acts sympathetic, but still nothing seems to get done re music). The chapel has plenty of band equipment, but it’s only for Christians or the RDAP program. How about that?!?!
Oddly enough, with this being a low, it’s not as petty as you’d expect: staff on all levels tend to be pretty good, not a lot of searching or harassment. On the other hand, they tend to be fairly good about actually doing their jobs. Bad apples exist as ever, but on balance, staff are friendly and treat inmates like humans.
Food is good. There are decent breakfasts here (pancakes, French toast, biscuits-n-gravy). Food prep in general seems to involve more care. And there have been some impressive holiday meals, including filet mignon (for real!), coconut shrimp, fresh sautéed mushrooms, and Oreo cheesecake (this was last New Years). You can usually get seconds with no problem.
Programs in general are also better: lots of outside chapel visitors, including a popular interfaith group ‘Agape’. The inter-library lean seems to be down, but education otherwise seems happening, lots of classes, lots of people doing various distance-learning programs. Certificate programs include H-VAC, welding, and home safety inspection. Rec programs are more limited, mainly just ceramics and crochet (why no music?!?!?). You can check out acoustic guitars and the usual games, but whatever…
The have email here. That’s a bonus…
I’ve already mentioned the “relaxed” culture—there’s even less “politics” here, virtually no gang activity; sex offenders and snitches walking around unbothered. There is also a medical center with lots of chronic cases here, which probably contributes to the general laxity. It also means the drug of choice here tends to be pills (way more of those, way less of alcohol).
The commissary is unimpressive by all accounts, smallish, no produce. But at least you don’t get locked in a room when you shop (benches out on the North Yard—nice!).
Racial breakdown: about 50& Hispanic (mostly South-Siders and Paisas, although Nortenos can walk), 20% white, 25% African-American, 5% other.
RDAP is here. There’s also an “outside crew” for people with “camp” points.