Eventually we arrive at Domokos (central Greece). I did not know this city because of its notorious katiki cheese but instead because of the homonymous prison. That’s why I’ve always used the feminine article for ‘Domokos’, since prison has a feminine article in Greek; just like I’ve always referred to ‘Avlona’. In fact, I think both place names are masculine nouns. The journey is interesting. The President of the Republic would have been jealous of such an escort. Only, he wouldn’t have been handcuffed behind his back, with four swaddled heads keeping a close watch on him. Incidentally one of them, the driver, is easygoing. Throughout the four-hour transfer, the handcuffs are tightened too much, so I feel something like electricity hitting my already bloodied wrists. Till this day, my thumbs are still numb.
My reception in the prison wing is so warm that it becomes frightening. Everyone wants to know me and share a handshake with me; neither out of sympathy befitting a victim of fabricated charges, nor out of respect corresponding to someone who did not cooperate with the authorities; instead they’re in awe of a television star. I am beginning to grasp what dimensions the incident of my arrest has taken in the mainstream media.
What we have here is a multicultural feast. A forensic feast, too. An Indian-born man is sentenced to life because he killed one of ‘his own’, i.e. a compatriot of his. He’s got a genial face. He killed that man over a fight. There’s a guy of sixty with one tooth and a darkened face, who looks like a truck driver from some film by Rodriguez. He has served a life sentence already; one month later, he was recaptured and sentenced to life again. He’s currently doing almost his sixth year of his prison time. He claims proudly that, when he was in the D (wing), he nailed a pair of scissors in the ass of Korkoneas (the cop that murdered Alexis Grigoropoulos in December 2008). He was transferred to another wing alright, but he was not been given the prison transfer he had wished for. Something tells me that the prison administration has bought the trick with Korkoneas. There is another man sentenced to 3.5 years, i.e. 3.5 fi in the prison dialect. The ‘fi’, aka filakisi, imprisonment, is opposed to the ‘ka’ which means kathirxi, incarceration. So: this guy doesn’t have any money to bail himself out of prison and sits in here among robbers and assassins. Fortunately, he has a criminal physic, and if you don’t hear his drama out, you think he’s a lifer and so you greet him with some respect. The poor fellow attempted to steal a car but had a bad luck, as it turned out that the vehicle belonged to cops. To father and son! Oh my gee! What he says of his arrest is he was beaten up for three days, every twenty minutes. His face was so swollen that it grew twice its size, yet the investigating judge failed to notice… There are many prisoners who have served their first-instance sentences before they even stand before an appeals court. For example, there are two men accused of a dozen bank robberies: none of them admitted any of the charges. One hundred and sixty witnesses, from customers to cashiers, paraded into the courtroom but none of them recognized the defendants! The testimonies given by cops were sufficient for the judges that sentenced each to twenty years, and now both are only looking forward to an appeal. The appeal trial receives dimensions of a second advent in prison.
Living conditions are sort of like a youth hostel. Many languages, shared kitchen, forced cohabitation. The space is extremely limited. The prison yard is the size of a luxury hotel pool, ten meters depth; just like the height of the walls that surround it. If I want to run a little, I soon feel like an electron, I get dizzy and give up the effort. Concrete and wires prevail everywhere. Looking out from the window of my cell, behind the bar, I see a piece of sky decorated with some barbed wire. The night has no stars; they have vanished under the powerful spotlights.
It’s cloudy today. The wall’s colour is the same as that of the sky. The clouds stand out from the wall only because of the barbed wire. Depression.
Nice evening out here. But the strong lights don’t let this evening feel any different from the rest. I begin to understand the true meaning behind the phrase ‘confinement experience’. Experience! Maybe I’m lucky that I live a mental condition which only a small part of humanity has the misfortune to experience. However, I cannot go out on a balcony to enjoy the autumn evening, and this seems to me little more than depressing. It feels perverse and sadistic. Okay, can’t complain. We’re making History out here; can we feel stuck in prison? No, no, and again no. But since I’m thinking all of this, why don’t I just write it down…
To be continued…
Anastasios K. Theofilou
Domokos prison, B2 wing
P.C. 35010, Domokos, Fthiotida, Greece
Tasos cannot receive books by mail, only small volumes of letters.