Ely State Prison is a so-called maximum security prison that was opened in 1989 out in the middle of nowhere, outside of a small miner’s town called Ely, Nevada. This prison is surrounded by the mountains of Nevada’s Great Basin. There are mountains on all sides of this prison. It is very secluded and a four hour drive to any of the nearest major cities.
There are eight units in this prison (not including the infirmary and the camp that sits outside of the prison) and all but one unit is locked down. When I came here in 1998 for battery on a correctional officer, this prison was still opened up, or less restricted I should say.
Units 1, 2, 3,and 4 are all disciplinary segregation units, also known as “the hole”. There are 2 wings on each unit. “A-wing” and “B-wing”. There is a control pod in between each wing (In ESP everybody calls the control pod “the bubble”). The officer in the control pod can monitor both wings and communicate with us (or eavesdrop on us) through the intercom.
Unit 3A houses all death row inmates, they get to come out together, in sections, for tier time and group yard (12 men at a time). Unit 3B is “the hole” or disciplinary segregation unit, that houses death row inmates who are doing “hole time” (or “D.S. time”). and death row inmates who are on protective custody status, and it also houses some of the regular inmates (non-death row) who are doing hole time.
All throughout these different disciplinary segregation units there are protective custody inmates, jail house snitches, and psych-patients housed on the same tiers as inmates who come back here from general population to do their hole time. This creates a weird atmosphere and a funny-style environment.
Units 5, 6, 7, and 8 are all considered General Population (“G.P.”), but unit 8 is the only unit 8 at is open. Unit 8 inmates get tier time and they all get to come out together on the big yard. Most of those inmates are allowed to have jobs that support and uphold the operations of the prison. They get to work in the kitchen, in the laundry, on yard labor crews, some are allowed jobs as barbers who come to the different units and cut the inmates’ hair.
Units 5, 6, and 7 were once General Population units, but now that this prison is slammed down I call it “General Populockdown”. We are allowed a few extra “privileges” and accommodations that we can’t get in the hole. Like, for example, we can wear our blues (in the hole we are only allowed t-shirts, socks, boxers, and an orange jumpsuit). We can order hobby craft and get items oft the commissary that we can’t buy in the hole. In order to get out of the hole and go to General Populockdown, the caseworkers say that we have to find a cellie. You have to have someone to live with. Someone that you will be locked down with in the cell for 23 hours a day. lts crazy. This place is a joke.
In the 10 years l’ve been here, I’ve seen this place go from bad to worse. Slowly but surely, they’ve taken so many things away from us and they’re creating an even more hopeless situation for us. Every time things change around here, they always change for the worst.
This is just a basic rundown of what its like here at E.S.P. right now. But there’s been widespread rumors that things are about to change in October of this year (2008). The rumors have it that they’re going to shut down unit 8 and bring in campers from the outside to work the inmate jobs that keep the prison functioning. If these rumors are true, its gonna be all bad for all of us. No hope, just misery.