"The yard" as it's called, as they're all called, was seven feet by thirty feet. Cold, mold-covered and entirely unromantic mortared brick shot up on all four sides several stories, interrupted once by chain-linked fencing spread roughly across the top. It served to discourage any climbing urges as if any were possible--not just denied by the physics of the enclosure but also by the ages of the four men that paced and stood in the small area.
The air was fresh, not filtered by air conditioning and consequently much, much warmer than the cells inside. It was also virgin lighting, if you could call the x-shaped patterns of shadows on the ground that. Light. Light and interaction, maybe. For whatever reason men need to be able to see the sky, albeit through a fence, each day. In this country anyway.
"Can we get some coffee out here?" The question was posed to the young male that stood behind me, tattooed arm holding the door that had no outer handle on it in front of me open.
"Probably" was the quiet, calm answer of a passive person. Which I immediately found ironic, as it would be difficult to end up here because of a passive act.
My orange clothing moved in flopping motions as I stepped into "the yard."
"What size are you?" they'd asked.
"Extra-large or double-ex-L?"
My hands moved to my now brightly-clad hips and I lifted the orange pants up slightly as my feet dropped in the puddle one after the other.
"What are you in for?"
I looked up and waited for a moment, thinking carefully before I answered. Not in any literal sense, but when men first meet each other, as I'm sure is the same with women, they measure each other. This was a completely foreign and unsafe surrounding, which was paradoxical as it was the most protected environment anyone who isn't a world leader can experience.
"FTA" I said, then glanced at the other men who were standing around gathering first impressions of their own. I didn't need to expound, it would've been as pointless as trying to walk back out the door that'd just closed behind me. Of course every one of them knew what it meant, a failure to appear was as common here as neon-colored apparel.
"Aw, that ain't nothin" he said coldly. "I've been in here for four months. Allen here's been in for fourteen. We're both named Allen. Allen's my middle name, it's his first. What's your name?"
I was no idiot. Had I made a previously stupid choice to not follow through with the court as I should have? Yes. That didn't mean it was a pandemic of bad choices that needed to be made daily. I had been clearly given the answers to the exam, there was no reason not to get an A or pass, however the grading system here worked.