My first visit to Jerry was at the maximum security prison at Pine Knot, Kentucky. Federal prisoners are either sent to FCI's, the lowest of the categorizations, Super Max, which house the baddest of the bad, or a max prison, such as McCreary. When I walked through the several steel doors, I understood I had entered another world. The visitation area is carefully arranged, with plastic chairs, fastened together and to the floor, set in quadrangles. Vending machines are located in the back where you can buy sodas and chips for the prisoner. This is a big deal because the prisoners can't buy cola's with sugar at the commissary because they can use the sugar to make alcohol. My first impression was that most of the prisoners were of color and young. I learned that most were in for drug related charges. They were covered with tattoos which I learned was mostly done while they were in prison. Somehow, inmates had fashioned a device to make tats and I thought if they used that same genius productively they could be rich.
The inmates entered the room through a bathroom and on exiting they were strip searched, and whatever other search the guards thought necessary. One of the inmates picked up a bible at the guard station. The guards knew I was a writer researching Jerry, were courteous and helpful, and let me know that Jerry was a good prisoner. Sine he was an old-timer, the other inmates treated him with a noticeable respect.
Money is not allowed in the prison so the inmates use things like postage stamps as currency, sending the stamps home to be sold. Improvisation is the call of the day for prisoners.