Great Expectations Part I

By Tony Casson

Thanks to the research of my sister Kathy, I was able to read quite a bit about the Federal B.O.P. in general, and Oakdale in particular, before I ever walked through the front door.

The orientation book for Oakdale is available online and is chock full of information on how the prison can help you become a better person while you are inside and prepare you fro your life when you get out.

After reading all of the material, one is left with the impression that the healthcare is going to be great and that eye care and dental is provided at no cost. Great! I need new glasses, haven’t been to the dentist in forever, and I really could use a complete physical—I’m 56 and there have to be a few things in need of repair, right?

I also read that education opportunities exist, and this excites me! I’m an old dog, but I bet I can still learn some new tricks!

Furthermore, it is expected that each inmate—with the exception of those who are medically exempt or in a GED or vocational program—will “find a job”.

All in all, when you look these info books over, the place doesn’t sound so bad—for prison, of course.

Perception, it seems, is always slightly different from reality and the well-intentioned programs developed by highly paid bureaucrats sitting around massive, expensive, neatly polished conference tables, surrounded by pots of steaming, freshly brewed coffee, delicious pastries and fresh squeezed juices, with large staffs of well-meaning, but naïve junior bureaucrats are as far removed from life’s realities as that conference table is removed from the swamps of southwest Loozeeanna!

How are the programs not working?

Let’s look at medical—the “entrance exam” as it were.

New arrivals are “called out” to the hospital a few days after being placed in general population for a “physical exam”, which the official handbook calls “complete”.

I arrive at the appointed time, along with about 30 other people. We are called in about six at a time into a hallway that contains a few chairs and a couple of balance scales. We are told to weigh ourselves and remember the number. One of the two physician’s assistants (PAs) then calls us to the end of the hallway and drags out one chair, a blood pressure machine on a rolling stand, a pad of post-its, and a pencil. He looks at me and says, “You look like an accountant”, and hands me the post-its and pencil, shows me how to strap the blood pressure “cuff” on an arm, push the button, and write down the numbers, including the pulse. He takes the first person in the examination room and tells me to do the rest of the people in the hallway.

I do as instructed, including asking each person what his weight was, and put it all together on a the paper and hand it to each person, saving myself for last.

When it was my turn to be called in, I was ready for my “exam”. I really hadn’t had a complete physical in 30 years or so.

Well, I was instructed to sit in a chair next to a desk and gave him the information on my paper (my BP was really quite good, by the way) and proceeded to answer a list of questions similar to what one might answer on new patient paperwork. Then…that was it!

That was the Federal Government version of a “complete” physical.

Let me think—did we not just pass a government healthcare bill?

Hmmm………………………..

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