Kim Savant’s day begins shortly after 5 a.m.
That’s probably not much different than when he was a Harrison County supervisor, or immersed in youth sports, his church or other civic endeavors.
These days, though, his day starts at Prison Camp Montgomery, a medium-security prison on the grounds of Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.
“At approximately 5:15, the P.A. calls food service employees (inmates) to the chow hall,” he wrote in an email to the Sun Herald. “At 5:30 a.m., a touch-tone alert lets us know the compound is open so we can move around and shortly after that they announce food service is open.”
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Breakfast is first come, first served. Inmates are called to lunch based on their work detail starting at 10 a.m., and they are called to dinner based on the unit they live in starting at 4:30 p.m.
After taking about 20 minutes to eat, Savant says he heads to the exercise yard.
He walks, does pushups and planks and stretches. In mid-August, a cat started joining him.
“The cat and I have become the talk of the rec yard,” he wrote in a Facebook post relayed by his daughter. “Comments like ‘is that the only person that will work out with you,’ are common as are ‘the cat is there waiting on you’ from people that are there before me. Monday, a corrections officer stopped and asked if I was taking the cat home when I leave!”
Then he goes to “work.” He’s an office clerk, which means he does a little light cleaning. He has to report to his unit at 7:30 and 10:30 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. to be “checked off” so the correctional officers know he hasn’t wandered off the fenceless compound.
The job lasts about a half-day. After that, he’s on his own, fighting boredom.
“When I am not working, I read, do Bible study, write letters and work crosswords,” he wrote. “Boredom is a big challenge, especially at night.”
He has to be back at his “cube,” his 9-by-7-foot living area inside one of the housing units, at midnight, 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. when the officers walk through to check that everyone is still in the compound. Otherwise, he’s free to walk around the compound.
Hardly the high life
Still, to paraphrase, prison life sucks. These minimum security camps used to be called Club Fed and likened to resorts with tennis courts and golf courses. That is a thing of the distant past.
One former inmate blogs about his experience. The only inmates on golf courses, he cracked, are trimming them.
“Prison, camp or otherwise, is a stripping of all the little freedoms we have learned to treasure,” Savant wrote. “It is a loss of the ability to choose what you eat, what you wear and who you associate with.
“It is not being able to choose what you watch on television, when you wake up and when you go to sleep. It is being watched every minute of every day by corrections officers that change the rules at their discretion.
“It is having no recourse for unfair treatment or an interpretation of policies that fly in the face of fairness. It is no internet access, no driving, no decisions as to where to go or what to do.”
But that has been his life since October 2015, when he watched his family drive away.
I do remember lying in my bunk that night, never closing my eyes and wondering how I could possibly endure this.
“Through tears I watched as my wife and two daughters tried to leave when I told them it was time,” he wrote. “They stopped, twice, and crying, got out of the car to tell me, ‘I love you.’
“I do remember lying in my bunk that night, never closing my eyes and wondering how I could possibly endure this.
“There are still nights and days like that but my Bible is where I turn to get past them.”
Savant said he is aware his story and his desire for early release will be met with a healthy dose of skepticism.
“I am certain there are those who are happy I am in prison,” he said. “I am equally certain that they are in a minority and those I care about would be almost as happy as me if I gained early release.
“Those who know me care; those who don’t care, don’t know me.”