There’s No Touching in Prison

At the Training Academy I distinctly remember one of the trainers saying at least a dozen times a day for 18 days, “There’s no touching in prison.” You didn’t need to tell me twice.

In Last Chance in Texas, Hubner sympathetically writes about all the touching among the young offenders at Giddings State School. He suggests that they begin displaying affection among each other to fill what was missing from their childhood. That’s a sweet thought.

Only in prison have I witnessed so much touching, among young men nonetheless. In my sheltered world I understood that two men presented with a one bed hotel room would flip a coin for the bed. No way would they share. When I came to prison I didn’t expect that these rules, along with many others I thought were as hard and fast as steel, stopped at the barbed wire fence.

First you see the gangster handshakes and brotherly hugs which we weakly remind them aren’t allowed. You might hear a hollow, “Formal handshakes only, boys,” bellow down the hall. Sarcastically they shake hands and move away to repeat the performance next hour. Next you notice the silent, furtive jabs they throw with the tiniest movement in the ribs, kidneys, and side of the thighs which the recipient takes without a flinch so neither can get in trouble. A squeeze of the shoulder reminds me of dogs maintaining the order of the pack. Then there is the groping of biceps and the pectorals which they say is to test for growth after all their workouts. I remind them that there’s no touching in prison. There will be time enough for all that when they’re released.

Because they know the incessant touching disturbs me, they started nuzzling too. A finger strokes an ear lobe. One walks a little too close to another and they graze each other softly. One stretches back and gets his hair rubbed; it looks like the yawn trick in the movie theater to get an arm around your darling. THERE’S NO TOUCHING IN PRISON, I remind them again.

Maybe they’re different in Texas, but these guys are not replacing maternal affection. We’re talking hormones and power gone crazy.


About hey miss

A teacher. A prison guard. I used to think that was like oil and water. Like lightening and metal. Some days it is. Some days it's magic.
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