Journal Entry: Robert Jesenik-05/21/2024-Blog #3 Day of Surrender

Journal Entry

This day is very surreal for a first-time offender so get ready!

If you’re like me, you’re already dealing with shame and embarrassment for even being in this position. First and foremost, understand you are entering an environment where most guards think you are a loser, a felon, and have a 70% probability of coming back someday. You can guess how they will be treating you, and it’s much more harsh than that, Day 1 and thereafter. Be ready for that as I sure wasn’t.

First things first, make sure you eat breakfast as you won’t be eating until 5 pm or after, even though you probably won’t be hungry. When you show up, make it between 9-10 am, and state to the outside guard/tower” I am here to surrender”. Once inside the intake process begins.

It should only take a couple of hours, but mine took 5+ hours due to all the sitting around and waiting. You can expect:

1. Picture taking for your ID- your card will have your inmate number- NEVER lose that card, its the key for everything

2. Strip Search and change into temporary prison clothes and shoes
– in case you haven’t done this before, bend over, spread your cheeks and cough twice!

3. Medical Questionnaire and then EMT will eventually come and do quick exam after they get down there to the receiving dept.

4. Psychologist eventually will arrive and do a short interview as well
– FYI- when asked if I’d like counseling I said yes, but there still hasn’t been any follow-up get used to that

5. You will sit in a temporary holding cell the entire time, no water the whole time, and could be 0-20 guys in there, coming and going, depending on the day and whether a bus arrives with transfers

6. Guards will just sit there making you wait in between these interviews and for no reason when you’re done with intake

7. My guards were always running around and confused, inmates coming and going, transferring in etc.. I must have been asked 5 times what my name was though they had my ID card

8. Eventually they will drop you off at your unit, give you a cell number, and there you go walking into the unit to find your cell with 200 people looking at you.

Now comes Phase 2 of self-surrender, getting settled in a cell. The first thing is ask for your “rep” who handles your assignment in coordination with the Counselor for the Unit. Guys in my unit were generally helpful and polite in finding him. In our location, we have one for Mexicans, Whites, Blacks and a couple others. You will need his help ASAP to make sure you have a mattress, blankets, and toiletries. Ask him how to get clothes and where that is. In my case, I had to wait till 6 am the next day to go to laundry to get clothes, standing outside with 75 guys in 45 degrees freezing for 2 hours to do so. If your rep is organized, they should have a kitty of supplies to help you the first couple days, like toothpaste, brush,towel and so forth. Don’t be shy using that.

I would definitely ask your cellmate to help you the first few days. You may still move cells again depending on lots of reasons, but make them a friend fast! If he’s decent, you can ask for some of his commissary food as long as you offer to pay back on the next commissary, wish I had known that sooner.

Just be ready for a disorganized mess, this isn’t like checking into a hotel by any means! You will have to find and scrape for everything like a cup for coffee or water, in my case a mattress, blankets as laundry was closed due the guards being so slow(they knew they were making me late for laundry I’m convinced now). Be ready for everything being a struggle those first few days, its just the way it is and intended to be.

Personally, I chose to be polite to everyone, but not share much until I knew they were ok. Either from other folks I know saying someone is cool and trust or in time. I highly recommend doing that. Conversely, the guys want to know they can trust you, so be prepared. Why you here? How long? They will try to see if you are a snitch and testify. Just know snitches and stealing in prison are 2 big No No’s. Ironically if you’re in for drugs, they will trust you more, but then you’re probably not self surrendering! Do what you can to get them comfortable so they vouch for you to others in the prison in other units. My group wanted to see my PSR to confirm the truth as well, which I’m told you’re not allowed to have anyways.

My other recollection is that when I self surrendered in January it was 45 degrees outside and 50 inside, freezing cold. First night sleeping with no sweats or blankets was miserable, but not much I could do about it so just dealt with it. Not sure what was worse, the lack of blankets and bedding/clothes, or hearing the cell door clank that first time at 9:30 pm and a slight feeling of claustrophobia kick in. I was on the top bunk of course, and I think I spent half the night worrying I’d fall off the narrow 3-foot bunk to boot, right onto the nightstand/storage unit, hitting my head and then landing on the floor. What a great way to begin! Like I’ve said above, get READY as here comes Day 2 and many more!

Now the journey begins!