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Queens, New York
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Today was the last time Cameron Porter would trek down the perfectly spotless stairwell of the Queensboro Correctional Facility to the fourth floor. The counselor’s office, which he was ordered to report to in exactly three minutes, was just two flights down from his residential floor, a place he had called home for the last five weeks.
The barracks-style housing unit he was assigned to was a dream compared to the overcrowded two-man cell he lived in for the previous four years. Fishkill, a medium-security prison just an hour north of Manhattan, while nothing like Attica or Sing Sing, was still wrought with career criminals, gang-bangers, and drug addicts. Thrown into the mix, were several soft, white-collar first-timers, like Cam. He quickly learned the lay of the land, especially when it came to protection and earning special privileges.
His time at Fishkill and Queensboro was both humbling and transformational. Many prisoners walk away from prison hardened, and it was only a matter of time before they returned. Cam, on the other hand, fell into another category. At least that was the assessment of his counselors at both Fishkill and now Queensboro.
Fishkill Correctional Facility, New York
Weekends at Fishkill usually meant the visitor’s room would be brimming with friends and family of dozens, sometimes hundreds of prisoners. This particular Saturday afternoon marked the first visitor for Cameron Porter since he was incarcerated six weeks ago.
He was surprised when the guard knocked a baton against his cell door and said, “Porter, you have a visitor.” He had no real friends to speak of who would go out of their way to visit him in prison, and his only family, Kit and Bette, were still angry at him for what he did to earn himself a minimum of five years behind bars.
“Who is it?” Cam asked.
“What do I look like, an information booth? You takin’ the visit or what?”
Cam silently snickered. He looked as wide as a booth, but smarting off to a guard could earn him a week in isolation. He swallowed his opinion and said, “Sure.”
Cam reported to the visitor’s room. It was filled with men, some inmates and some not, women, and a dozen or so children. The chatter droned, making not one conversation distinguishable. As he walked down the center aisle, his eyes scanned each table looking for someone he recognized. Finally, in the far corner, he spotted Kit, not with a smile on her face, but a stern look of displeasure. He closed the distance between them, stood at the table’s edge for a few beats to stare her in the eye. Her expression didn’t change much, if anything, it worsened. He took a seat directly across, then said his first words to her since his arrest. “Hey, Kit. It’s good to see you.”