"Kim's parole came through," the word came through. "They moved him to rehab this morning."
Gunther absorbed the news slowly, as he did most things. The guards gave you the first hit of the day at roll-call; they'd finally cancelled breakfast because the bliss negated anything like an appetite, except for a handful of prisoners who had to take their meds with food. You could always pick them out because of the edgy, irritable way they rushed through their meal, the quicker to get at their government-mandated fix.
Chemo-prisons were statistically safer than any other form of incarceration. Prisoners that were high for most of the day didn't pick fights, couldn't really fuck so there was no rape, and were still functional enough to attend the mandatory classes. Chemo-prison wasn't measured in years, it was about credits earned. A lot like high school, or community college, except you were forced to stay on campus and wear the prison uniform. The guards didn't need violence to enforce their rules: anybody that didn't play ball didn't get their fix.
Kim had gotten twelve hundred hours for killing his wife. The cancer was terminal - had spread from the pancreas into the blood - and the doctors gave her six to eight months, the last part of it in hospice. The overdose had been a mutually-agreed upon affair - death with dignity, at home - but the judge had to hand down the mandatory sentence. Your average prisoner could manage about twelve credits a year, sitting through tedious lectures and multiple-choice exams, half-baked out of their skulls. Kim had done better than that - he had been a doctor, on the outside - and helped tutor prisoners to get them through their exams.
People like Gunther.
Now Kim was in rehab - the half-way program where they weaned you off the government drugs, re-acclimated you to society. Parolees weren't allowed to associate with those still "in the system." Too high of a chance of relapse. Except now Gunther was facing an exam, and Kim was supposed to be the one to get him through it. Fail the exam, and Gunther would fail the course. No credits. Try again next semester.
Gunther stared blankly at the wall of the exercise yard, the big flat screen displaying a brightly colored cartoon doing pilates. About thirty people were following along, lacking much else better to do. The serious exercises would wait for physical education classes - sports, yoga, physical therapy - always a long waiting list for those classes. Easy credits.
There were people that spent ten years in chemo-prison on a sixty credit sentence, unwilling or unable to finish enough classes to graduate. The idea made him sweat. He had a sixty credit sentence. The prospect of chemo-prison hadn't been a major deterrent when he was boosting cars...but he never thought he'd spend three years of his life back in high school. No, worse than high school. The guards had the authority of elementary school teachers. The first couple weeks, when they were getting you addicted, they called it orientation. Lots of drill. Learning the schedule. Standing in line, moving in groups. Somebody said they'd borrowed it from ROTC, but it reminded Gunther far too much of second grade.
Now Kim's parole had come through. Gunther wondered if he could arrange a cram session during study hall. Find somebody, anybody that had taken the test before to take them through the material. He knew there were people that dealt in old test banks, that sort of thing, but he didn't want to deal with them...if you got caught, they could add credits to your sentence. And that was the last thing Gunther wanted.