Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Power Failure

Missouri has some powerful storms sometimes.  Living anywhere in central Missouri there is always a chance of some terrific weather regardless of season.  It's only a matter of time.  Booneville was directly hit by a big storm one night.  Luckily for me I was on work release already.  I wasn’t in the ghetto anymore.  It was pitch black outside except for when lightening flashed.  When the power went out it stayed out.  The backup generators didn't work.  The entire prison was suddenly without electricity, and it didn't come back on for hours.

Luckily for the guard in our house he wasn't in the ghetto either.  He was an older guy, and small too.  I think his name was Browning or something like that.  He walked like Fred Flintstone.  Talked funny too.  He wasn't a mean guy, but he could be cranky.  I didn't know it at the time, but the battery went dead on his radio.  He was locked in a room, with no lights, with over eighty inmates, and no one to communicate with the outside world.  He sat at his desk the whole time and never said a word.  He had to of been terrified.  The cacophony was in full effect.  Remember, if a civilian didn't see it, it didn't happen.  Even though I was in work release it was still pretty intense.  A lot of those gangsters didn't like me at all, and I'm not being racist, but in the dark I couldn't see them at all.  

Of course cats were having sex.  Of course there was a white guy getting sexed in the wreck room.  He wasn't being raped either, but had agreed to it.  It was weird figuring that out.  That's kind of how it works with cocaine.  If you don't do it with people they attempt to hide it from you.  Prison really opened my eyes to just how much and how many males sex each other.  More than a few times I was shocked to see who was into that.  There are a lot of married men who still like other men I can tell you that for sure.  They called it the down low.  There weren't many gangsters who didn't have some sugar in their tank.

Shit went crazy in the other houses.  Bunks were thrown down the stairs at the guards in 6 House.  5 House was a circus with the lights on.  They just locked the bay doors in 5 House.  The hole filled completely up in one night.  I felt bad for those guys in the ghetto that night.  There weren't enough guards for all of that.  Gangland went bananas. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Prison really was a disgusting place.  It would probably be safe to say that it still is.  After I got out I showered several times a day, every day, for months.  I couldn't get the disgusting off of me.  Any time any dirt got on me at all; I took a shower.  Taking a shower all alone is a glorious freedom.  It's a luxury unlike any other. 

Roaches are a real thing.  Roaches live up to their reputation.  Roaches were everywhere.  They fly.  They had a city under the prison.  Their headquarters was under the chow hall.  The prison had a tunnel system under it for the plumbing.  The tunnels weren't tall enough to stand up in.  All the pipes ran along one side of the tunnel near the top.  The top of it was arched.  It was made of bricks and was old by my standards.  The plumbing crew guys were the only inmates that went in those tunnels.  Not really anyone wanted that job either because of the roaches.  Near the chow hall the walls would be alive with them.

It's just like the movies they said.  The entire surface would be crawling with cockroaches.  A moving wall of scuttling, clicking, sometimes three inch long cockroaches doing what they do.  I saw some huge cockroaches outside of that chow hall flying around.  It was like there was a war going on.  The prison was being invaded from the inside and was moving out. 

They really were everywhere.  The civilians who worked the kitchen were big women except for the head guy who was a weird looking white guy.  I never saw him really, except for across the yard.  The women though were walk funny big.  Scary looking big.  They couldn't have run if they had to.  They had terrible attitudes.  The food was as gross as the roaches.  I had to be really careful about what I ate.  I would always investigate, hitting up other guys who were already eating trying to figure out if it was safe or not. I couldn't starve, but there was a limit to what I would willingly eat. 

I saw it with my own eyes one day working for maintenance.  We were going around cleaning out all the AC units.  Most of the time no one was ever behind the chow hall; it was off limits to general population.   Lying on the ground getting ready to go in the back of the kitchen managers personal truck were boxes labeled not for human consumption.  I always wondered why that guy was allowed to bring his personal vehicle into the prison itself.  No one else ever did that.  He was probably just fattening his paycheck. 

There was meatloaf one time that had a glossy shine to it where it was sliced.  Chicken bone casserole was a no go.  There were beans on the plate every single meal except breakfast.  One of my favorite meals was hard boiled eggs.  I would always trade commissary items or something from a future meal for the extra unadulterated protein.   I knew people in 4 House.  Word on the street was that cats sometimes poked a hole in the meat and sexed it.  They would have someone watch out for them while in the cooler alone.  There were some freaks in that house.  Word on the street was that 4 House was where the freaks went because they always had plenty of opportunity to do their thing.  At work and in the house itself there were lots of opportunities to be alone.  There was always at least one bay in that house that had its lights out.

I had to be really careful about what I ate.  I doubt very much I made it out of there without eating something disgusting.  I doubt anyone did.  When people who obviously do not care about themselves are preparing food it's never going to be good food, and it never was.  Never not once.  It was disgusting.

In the corner of the chow hall where the trays are picked up there is a long narrow window that runs horizontally at about waist level.  One of the kitchen managers is always sitting right at the window on the other side of the wall to make sure no shenanigans are occurring.  Running along the kitchen side of the wall was a counter with big long food pans in heat sinks.  There was an inmate at each pan, and they would fill the trays military style.  The whole prison ate in less than an hour and half.  One day as I was walking up to get my tray a roach was just running around on this ladies arm.  She never even moved to shake it off or nothing.  It was just running around doing its thing easily crawling over the fat folds in her arm.  I didn't eat much.

The only reason I was eating at all was because I was lifting weights so much.  I played a lot of hand ball too.  That is a very active sport, and we were quite competitive.  I can’t stand for people to be better than me.  I was born competitive after all.  If I had extra money on my commissary I would buy protein powders.  They had a meal replacement powder too.  The only other thing to eat was ramen.  I still love ramen, but ramen is not nutritional at all and it does not sustain a person.  Compared to prison food ramen is absolutely delicious.  I had to go into that disgusting chow hall though.  It was that or starve.  I couldn't afford to lose any size.  So much of my power depended on it.  I got to where I was benching over 300 lbs. and could squat 450. I simply couldn't do that starving all the time. 

When I tell people this part of the story they always ask me, "but why?  Why was it that way? With all those inmates why wasn't it cleaner?  Why wasn't the food better?To me it is pretty simple.  When there is only one guard, who doesn't have a real weapon other than a radio and some mace, per hundred inmates, that guard couldn't really make us do much of anything.  Those guards were always walking a fine line and they knew it.  They were quick to call for help when it got sketchy.  They didn't have what it took to make us do much of anything or than obey the rules. No one in Booneville wanted more time. 

The main reason the food was so bad was because no one dreams of being a prison cook in life.  No one wakes up and wants to go to work in a prison.  People generally do not perform well if they are not doing what it is they are meant to do in life. The people who applied for that job were not trying to improve the world or make it a better place.  Those civilian cooks didn't know how to manage inmates, or how to cook for that matter.  They couldn't even manage their own lives.  Their pay had to of been crap.  They were probably just like JoAnn and doing it for the state benefits.  They were not good people in the sense of their actions.  It was a pay check.  It was a job.  They couldn't get one anywhere else I'm sure, or they would not have been in there. 

There are so many fixes to this problem it's not even funny, yet it still persists to this day.  The people in charge are always changing the rules inside the prison, but never changing the reasons for which a prison is even needed in the first place.  They never change the culture.  Cats could have been learning to legitimately cook in there, but instead it was a circus.  They could have been leaving prison with a way to provide for themselves.  The people in charge didn't care about them any more than they did me.  That's really what it all comes down to; if the people in charge don't even care about themselves, how can they care about others?  They didn’t care about us at all.  That means they didn’t care about you either. 

Using those civilian women in that chow hall as an example, they brought the entire prison's food quality down to their level in life.  Through their actions they ruined it for us all.  Their lives were in a state of ruin and they reflected it out into the universe accordingly.  I'm sure they had their reasons in life for being what and who they were, but I don't really like making excuses for apathy.  They obviously didn't care about me.  They didn't care about me at all or they would never have put that shit on my tray. 

I still have this thought to this day; if I could at nineteen be at least trying to get my head out of my ass, what was stopping them?  They were much older than I.  They had their freedom, couldn't they at least try?  It is the golden rule after all; do unto others.  I prefer saying the golden rule another way; thou art thou brother’s keeper.  I wouldn't have served that disgustingness to anyone. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Genuine fear.

The most intense moment I ever had in prison was while working for Stan.  It was a rare occasion for me to feel genuine fear.  He had a bunch of stuff in his car that he needed to get to his office.  He didn't want to carry it all so he asked me for help.  I complied.  I probably wouldn't have though had I known what he was going to do to me.  Despite my façade, the hyper-masculinity, I am a very cautious person.  I don't ride motorcycles for instance.  I am always aware that every time I pass an oncoming car on a two lane highway, doing 55 mph, that I have just had a near death experience.  I don't take unnecessary risks ever.  If you ever see me doing something sketchy it's only because have already thought it out in my own way, or I would not be doing it.

Stan couldn't see this part of me.  No one understands the calculating.  There is too much intuition involved.  I doubt it ever crossed his mind that he had endangered my life at all, but I was acutely aware of it.  The truth is I probably wasn't in danger at all, but that just wasn't how I saw it.  For all I know those guards weren't even paying attention.  

When we got to the front gate I was already nervous.  The only time inmates are near the front gate is when they get to leave to go home.  Inmates aren't even allowed to walk within a hundred feet of it.  Part of the security of the place is that no one really knows what it is like past the visiting room.  There is just never a reason for inmates to be there other than for leaving.  Besides the day I left there for good, this was the only time I had been in that area.

I never met a high ranking white shirt that gave a shit about inmates.  To them we were basically just animals. To me they were just bigots; men who judge by the eye with no depth of thought whatsoever, yet were making life altering decisions regarding others.  I never liked to be around them.  They were all powerful.  Whatever they said went.  Since I was merely an animal to them there was no power to get from them.  There was no advantage in dealing with them.  They could only bring negative consequences.  No inmates had power with them.  They were always in headquarters. 

There was a small area at the entrance to head quarters.  It was basically a rectangle shaped enclosed chain linked box.  Headquarters was encased.  Snag wire, chain linked fence, cinder blocks and bullet proof glass.  Looks like a fort with big light poles all around it.  Besides the hole it was the only part of the prison with high tech security.  The entry road to the prison passed right in front of it.  It had full vision on the three sides not attached to the visiting room building.   

The small chain link box at the entrance was for security purposes.  I called it the double locked door technique.  If you were to be entering the prison, they would buzz you through the chain link fence door.  Once it was secured, they would then buzz the main door to the building.  Both doors are never open at the same time.  Stan had me step out into the box.

I'd been locked up over two years by then, and right there in front of me was the parking lot.  Right there was freedom.  The closest I had been to it in years.  I was not cuffed or shackled.  The main door slammed closed and I heard the lock engage.  Then buzz click.  The chain link door swung open.  My hands were shaking.  Then Stan did, what was to me, the unimaginable.  He asked me to help him get the stuff out of his car.  I panicked.  He's acting rushed.  He's in a hurry.  I didn't want to seem stupid in front of him, but I was scared to death.  I didn't want to cause a scene and argue with him.  It was like I was floating on air.  Adrenaline was pumping through my veins. 

I could have been shot dead for that.  An inmate, not cleared, standing outside the perimeter fence, can be shot on sight.  It's a minimum of five years without parole.  I was trying to get that shit out of his car and back into the box so fast I was sweating.  I needed back in there and I needed back in there right then.  I should not have been outside the fence.  Those shotguns are always loaded.  Five flat years on top of what I had already done might as well have been a death sentence. 

By the time I got back to his office with the stuff I was quite upset.  I said something to him about it too.  There was no need to put me in jeopardy over some crap in some boxes.  I didn't trust him anymore after that.  He saved my life, so I couldn't be truly upset.  He couldn't control what those guards would do.  He couldn't assure my safety in such a situation.  Some of those guards literally prayed for someone to try to escape.  I made it clear to him that that would never happen again.  He would have to find someone else to go outside the fence if he needed help. 


It's a thing I do.  It's kind of hard to explain.  I defy odds.  I do my own thing.  To people who spend their lives obeying the rules and doing what they are told I seem quite wild and unpredictable.  If I make up my mind to do something the whole world could tell me I am wrong, and I will do it anyways.  At nineteen I didn't know how to stick up for myself in any way other than being hyper-masculinized.  I didn't even know it was intuition I was using.  My spiritual studies hadn't really begun yet.  I could hear that call within my mind and I would honor it regardless of consequence.  It’s part of being an idealist maybe, never caring about practical consequences.  I loved her and that was all that mattered.  What society thought about it mattered not.

Rachel wanted to marry me.  Not joking.  It wasn't really my idea at all.  Naturally everyone was telling me not to do this.  By this time though it was clear to me that no one even knew me.  I never let them. All they knew were my facades.  They knew the show I put on.  They knew what I was raised to be, what prison made me, what this society cast me as.  Rachel though, knew who I really was more than any human on the planet.  Is that not a wife?  What does it matter if there was a ring or not?  I don't know why she needed me, but I knew I needed her.

She didn't want to wait till I was out.  She wanted to get married while I was in there.  I couldn't afford to disappoint her.  I couldn't afford to lose her.  I couldn’t afford to question it all either.  I considered it for some time before saying yes.  Sometimes in life one must do what they must do.  Being married caused a huge internal conflict in me.  I so badly didn't want to be like JoAnn, married five times before I made it out of high school that I swore to never divorce.  My desire to not be like JoAnn made marriage a really big deal to me.  That was my bad.  My being married to her had so much more to do with life than whether or not it lasted our whole lives.  I do not see that fact as being a reason to say our marriage was a failure. 

The truth is I married her because I loved her.  I got married because I needed out of there.  Not just prison, but I needed out of my life.  I needed a new life.  This was something Rachel and I shared.  Her life had not been so much better than mine.  Not only were our childhoods quite similar, but we were born very close together in the year.  I was born on the 1st of Sept. and she on the 4th.  There was a great deal we shared in common as Virgo's.  We have been separated for over ten years now as I write this, almost as long as we were together, and I still miss her as a friend.  Whether she meant to or not; she saved my life.  How could I not feel some connection with such a person? 

She bought the rings.  They were exactly what I wanted.  Plain gold bands.  As an idealist the rings just didn't have anything to do with it.  Neither did the preacher man.  JoAnn picked him out.  Naturally to her such things mattered.  Leave it to the woman who can't keep a husband to think the preacher is important.  It's kind of sad how long it took me to get that bitch out of my life.  I’m practically defined by my ability to stick up for myself and that was still quite difficult to do.  The fact that I hated her did not remove my desire for a mother.

Rachel wore simple white.  Not a real wedding dress, but something modest.  They escorted her to the church during lunch with the preacher man.  He was from whatever church JoAnn was using to feel good about her shit life at the time.  The ceremony was over in less than ten minutes and they escorted them all right back out.  That had to of been a trip for Rachel.  During my bit in Booneville not many civilian women were ever in there.  How could it not have been a trip?  She had to walk through the upper quad, with the big brick buildings everywhere, inmates in grey everywhere going to and from chow, cackling and snickering about the girl in white.  I'm not sure how she could not have felt some fear.  Only having one guard around is never really reassuring. 

We barely got to hug and kiss.  Everyone was criticizing me for this.  People would say, “You got married in prison?”  I didn't care.  Did they know Rachel was all I had?  Did they know that I had no family?  Did they know sex had nothing to do with it?  Even within the realm of love I was on one hand an idiot, and on the other a genius.  I was an idiot for thinking I would never get a divorce.  I was a genius for marrying her despite all the criticism.  I could see people looking at me like I was a fool, I could feel it, but that was the difference between them and I; I could see it in myself, but they couldn’t see it in themselves.  Not a single one of those people criticizing me were happily married themselves.  Even at nineteen I knew I had to pay prices.  Marriage isn't about finding someone and then living happily ever after.  That's that fairy tale shit they sell on TV.  Marriage is about bonding with someone.

I could see it even if I couldn’t say it clearly.  According to societies standards there were a million very obvious reasons we should not have gotten married.  According to life we had every reason to marry.  Despite those failings society was pointing out so adamantly we had a bond that in my experience was quite rare among humans.  I’ve never had one like it since.  It nearly killed me too, when I lost it years later.  I've read the stats regarding men who lose their wives and it is sketchy.  Like I said, it's a thing I do; defy odds.  The divorce was just as odd defying as the marriage. 

I won't lie.  My memory regarding Rachel is sketchy.  I've spent a great deal of effort over the last decade getting her out of my memory.  For over a decade she was the center of my life, then one day she wasn’t.  It was devastating.  In order to move on I had to practically act like it never happened.  It's one thing to mourn someone who dies, but another all together when the one you mourn is still walking the earth. 

I don't even remember what housing unit I was in.  I called her one day during the afternoon.  She was crying.  I was feeling sick to my stomach because I kind of knew what was coming.  She informed me that she couldn't do it anymore.  She was seeing her neighbor.  There was nothing I could do.  I was in there.  She was not.  Had I not put in so much work to pull myself out of the hole that conversation would have ended my life.  I could feel the spiral out of control trying to suck me in.  

I just sucked it up, and through sheer will did not let it all go.  It was a defining moment in my life because I had every reason to just unleash.  I impressed myself with my ability to reign it in.  I was so embarrassed I didn’t even tell anyone.  I just kept it in.  I don’t think I even let myself cry.  I just told myself that I always knew it would happen.  I had taken so much criticism for marrying her I wasn’t going to humiliate myself by telling people what she was doing. 

Naturally I got depressed, but I just kept on marking the days.  Kept praying in the weight pile.  Kept devouring books.  Kept accumulating power.  I only had like five or six months before my parole board meeting.  There was a voice in me saying it wasn't over yet with Rachel, even though she said what she said.  I was on my own for a while.  Growing up is a bitch. I was proud of myself for not having snapped. 

After I got the verdict back from the parole board meeting I called her.  I spent several days working myself up to that call.  We hadn’t even been writing.  I had no idea what was going on in her life.  I hadn’t talked to her for months.  I told her that I would be out within a year.  We both cried on the phone.  She didn’t even know that I had gone up for the hearing.  She was as shocked as me by the release date.  I was going to get out.  I couldn’t blame her for not waiting it out.  How could that be easy?  It wasn’t her fault whatsoever that I was in there.  I didn’t give a shit about anything; I was going to get out.  I had somewhere to go again.  We were still married after all. 

What would you pick?  A life in prison or a marriage deemed imperfect by society?  It was an easy pick for me. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Racism is real.

Supposedly in this culture my being a white male gives me some privilege.  I am white, six feet tall, with an athletic build.  Statistically those three things make me more likely to succeed.  Obviously though I had been thrown under the bus and found myself absolutely surrounded by inner city blacks who really didn't like white people because of their situation.  Through reading I had some knowledge of their situation.  I was watching it go down with my own eyes, at least a certain part of it anyways.  I didn't have any experience of city life yet, but in prison it was happening to me too.  I might not have been black, but the stigma of being a felon was just as limiting on my future.  I’m not saying they are equal things, being black and being a felon, but it lets one know what it feels like first hand to have certain things made unavailable simply because of a label.  If you don't believe me just check the committed a felony box on a job application and go looking for a job. 

Cats name was Rat.  I never figured out why they called him that.  He was like 5'4'' maybe, but built.  He still had the wide shoulders, and as is typical of black people he had the muscular build and six pack.  If you randomly selected one hundred blacks, and one hundred whites in prison the physical difference in appearance is startling, and I mean that by not taking skin color into consideration.  There will be like eighty black guys with a six pack, and maybe ten white guys with one if you are lucky.  What is crazy is that in terms of lifestyle they do absolutely nothing different.  There were so many blacks with six packs who never ever did a damn thing.  It makes them appear much more intimidating to a pudgy looking white guy.  Rat though lifted weights.  He was athletic and could back it up.  It's crazy how good at basketball some of those small guys can be.  Even though he was short he still carried himself, and didn't have a small man's complex about it.    The dude was intelligent and we had conversations a few times.  I didn't consider him a bad guy. 

This other dudes name is Sergeant.  He hasn't been in for very long yet.  He's in Six House.  He’s still learning.  His head is shaved.  He's one of those white boys on upper hill that finds it easy to be openly racist.  He doesn't know the rules on lower hill it seems.  He hasn't learned his lesson yet.  I don't like racist people so he and I didn't ever talk much.  I don't associate with racist people.  I have no respect for them.  It’s just not that difficult to wrap one’s mind around. 

Rat was one of those rare gangsters that had a job in maintenance.  Like I said, he was smart and new how to play the game.  He didn't always like being in the ghetto either, and a maintenance job was a way out temporarily.  A job on a maintenance crew came with several perks.  Just because he was in a gang didn't mean he liked constant noise.  No intelligent person would like the circus.  There weren't any guards at the maintenance building usually.  Part of that job was having some freedom.  The civilians were called maintenance supervisors.  There were four or five crews, and each had a supervisor.  Some jobs were more serious than others like plumbing and electrical.  Sometimes we would be sitting around the trucks waiting or whatever and there wouldn't be anyone around except inmates.  It's just me, Rat, and Sergeant at the back of a truck.

Rat is sitting next to me on the tail gate.  Small talk.  He's gangster talking, which Sergeant isn't quite familiar with yet.  He didn't understand everything being said.  He's kind of sneering that Rat is talking that way.  It quickly escalates.  Rat is on edge.  Rat asked him point blank why he shaves his head.  Dude is trying to act hard at this point because a 5'4" gangster who is smarter than he is; is calling him out.  Dude says right back, "Because I don't like black people."  Rat jumps off the tail gate and says, "What you mean to say is, you don't like niggers."  Rat started approaching him. Sergeant looks over at me as this happens like I was going to help him.  He even made it obvious as he backed away from Rat, looking at me like I should help him. 

I didn't do shit.  Wasn't going to either.  I was hoping Rat would beat his ass.  His parole board hearing was coming up though.  He couldn’t afford to clown on this white boy.  Sergeant had it coming though.  Say stupid shit and you got it coming.  I wouldn't have let Rat get jumped either had Sergeant had a bunch of white boys around.  Being on lower hill I knew exactly what it was like to be the only person with a certain color of skin.  That feeling is a real thing.

When I was in 1 House there was a dude named Epps who hated white people.  He did not hide that fact either.  He was an officer in the Nation of Islam church.  Always running his mouth.  Always adding to the cacophony.  He was bitter like me, but too wrapped up in his own shit to see it.  It's called the shadow effect.  It's a well-documented psychological phenomenon.  It's when the thing you dislike about someone else is true about you and you just can't see it.  Don’t want to see it.  He was racist and didn't want to realize it on an emotional level.  The truth to him was painful.  That is how it was with most of them.  They don't realize it is each of us alone that decides who we are.  Instead of taking personal responsibility for his own situation in life he blamed others.  I understood his plight, but he happened to be quite racist about it. 

I can only take so much.  I had already made it clear to him that if I could not say overtly racist shit neither could he.  No one calls me a honkey, or cracker, or any of that.  He made sure he used those words just never directly at me.  He'd say it when coming around a corner, or as I was coming in the bay.  He liked to do it just to push my buttons.  He liked to call me a Europe.  A European.  Since he was given the African label, I was given European.  He had it right too.  The European culture that American culture came from was disgustingly racist.  Sexist too.  Just straight up bigoted.  Still is.  Epps was acting like it was me that made those decisions.  These guys were just like me; really smart in some ways and totally ignorant in others.  It was a genius title, but I wasn't the white man holding him back.  He had me confused with some other white people. 

We were standing in line to be counted, and he's running his mouth looking right at me talking about Europeans.  He was pissed off about how he was being treated at his job. You see the problem with this cat was that he was ranked in the most racist church in prison.  Merely out of principle, they will all take his side over some racist shit.  I'd seen the call go down before when I was in that bay with Miniman.  Wouldn't have mattered what the reason, it would have made it quite unsafe being anywhere after picking a fight with this dude.  It's not only that there are other guys in that church, but that those other guys are also all in various gangs.  It goes from messing with one guy to potentially hundreds instantly.  He knew that fact too.  Racist as he was he was not an idiot.  He was doing the same shit as me to get out.  He played the power game too.  He had a job in admin too, and knew how to talk white when he needed to. 

My eyes flared.  I was so sick of this dude running his mouth.  The whole bay is quite for count.  I am looking right at him like I was daring him to take a step forward. I say, "I'm not a fucking European.  I'm a fucking redneck. I was born in Missouri."  Silence for a couple seconds, then laughter.  Some other gangsters snickered at him.  Even other blacks got tired of listening to his shit.  I would have tried to beat the racism out of him had he moved towards me.  It's easy to run your mouth when you have hundreds of cats behind you.  I was so pissed I would have risked it.  I would have risked my safety for a few months for the chance to stomp that guy’s ass.  I did the next best thing though, and made him look stupid.  Checked him in front of everyone. 

It doesn't take much looking into the matter to realize those blacks had legitimate reason to be pissed off in life.  They were thrown under the bus, and kept ignorant just like me.  As racist as those church organizations were they did make those guys more aware of their situation in life.  The racial tension was always high.  It was always in my face.  As if I had any more to do with being born white than they had in being born black.  I didn't want to be in there either. 

The worst ever was when I was on work release.  You absolutely cannot fight, or get any violations for that matter while on work release.  They won't let you out if you do.  The stupid prison staff let a racist movie air over the cable.  Mississippi burning or something like that.  Idiots.  A well respected white boy got worked over in 5 House because of it.  There weren’t enough whites in those bays for that kind of movie to be watched simultaneously by hundreds of blacks.  I found out after the fact that the white boy had been told if he swung first; it would be all in.  Being in work release I was no longer in the know. 

The chow hall was two big open rooms with a divide wall in the middle.  Half of the wall was a counter with drinks and condiments.  There was always milk and some kind of crazy kool aid drink that stained the shit out of the plastic cups. I never drank that nasty stuff.  If it did that to the cup what was it doing to my insides?  The other half of the divider was the dishwasher's station.  The guards station was at the open end, and everyone had to go by it to get out.  At the far ends were single entry doors, and then in the middle were double doors that everyone left through.  The guards always acted like everyone was passing shit around during chow.  It wasn't really a station, but an open area where the two rooms connected.  The guards always set up shop at the corner tables.  The lines formed along the outer wall, so from the guard station the whole room can be seen clearly.  The tables are all bolted down including the seats; four seats to a table.  They controlled the length of the lines via their walky talkies.  There was some politics in which houses go when, and to which side of the chow hall which houses go to avoid conflicts.  The guards were always clueless though. 

I was coming back from working in a town called Blackwater.  I was at the end of the line about fifteen feet from the corner.  There were probably thirty or forty inmates in front of me.  The row of table’s right next to the line, right by the narrow slotted window where the trays appear, were filled with white boys. I could feel the tension in the room.  I knew some racist shit had gone down but I didn’t know exactly what.  I found out after the fact that all the cats in line standing along the wall were the blacks from that bay in 5 House.  They were trapped between the brick wall and a row of about twenty white boys.  The dude they rolled stood up and just drilled a cat right in the face.  Before I could blink the whites were all on their feet throwing down on those gangsters.  Those cats didn't know what the fuck was going on.  Guards came running in and started spraying mace on the cats who wouldn't stop fighting.  One guard took a shot to the face.  Once a guy is maced he is no longer responsible for landed punches.  Everyone knows this.  Rookie guard spraying mace like that with so many fighting was a dumb thing to do.  When the guards came in most everyone was burning out.  Gangsters were jumping over the counter into the kitchen area trying to get away.  Some white boys managed to escape because the guards let them.  The guards knew what was up. 

I felt like such a bitch though.  I had to just stand there.  Cats who had had my back were sticking up for one another, and I wasn't able to return the favor.  Had I gotten that four or five year out date that would have been me in there throwing down.  I could have let it all go if even for only for a few moments.  I would have gotten my opportunity to go to the hole for a while too.  Instead I had to stand there and hope they didn't notice me.  I was ashamed.  I had to get out though.  I put my head down.  I didn’t really eat.  The fumes from the mace were still in the air.  The food was even worse to me knowing I would be out soon.  I didn’t care about my pride that time; I was going to get out. 

The scam.

The man who sentenced me to ten years in prison knew almost nothing about me at all.  He had his own life.  I was one case in thousands.  His impact on my life was quite detrimental.  My impact on his was a few hundred bucks for his time.  In total I do not think I spent more than fifteen minutes in his presence.  He barely talked to me at all.  The prosecutor did not ever talk to me.  They had no clue who I was at all.

That fact makes it arbitrary.  Hopeless.  A number.  A statistic.  A paycheck.  That makes them bigots.  This part of the system comes from kings and queens farming their people for money.  See that word 'their' implies ownership.  It means they own you.  It’s a broken system.  The judge is just like a king sitting up high behind his big bench doling out wrecked lives like his life depends on it.  Completely uninformed.  Those people are just doing what their told, no different than those convicted do, they just get paid to do it.  If those people cared for me at all they would never have sent me to prison. They would never send anyone there.    

It's no different in there either.  No different at all.  There is a booklet they hand out when you go to prison that explains the rules.  It had a chart that showed how much time a guy had to do before being able to see the parole board.  I had to do thirty six months on a ten year sentence.  I had been in long enough I had to find a new guy to double check the months.  Within the prison system is the parole system.  They had their own department and offices in the basement of the admin building.  I think there were five or six of them.  Let that sink in.  Five or six people for something close to a thousand inmates.  It's human farming without the physical brand.  With humans you don’t have to burn the skin to leave a mark. 

A guy gets to see their parole officer two times in prison.  Once before going to see the parole board, and once after to find out the results.  Two times; that’s it.  The first time it's basically a job interview.  Then she calls the various housing guards that you've spent time with.  Builds a profile of sorts, and makes a recommendation to the board.  The person who was in charge of my future barely had a thirty minute conversation with me one time.  That is a little better than the prosecuting attorney that is for sure.

As you can imagine, the weeks before the parole board meeting one is on another level.  The time between the interview and the meeting is quite tense.  I saw a lot of cats crack under the pressure.  It was almost a given that when a guy had a parole board meeting coming up everyone gave him some space.  Actually the whole game changes at that point.  Regardless of the result everyone always acted different after that meeting.  I wasn't the only guy in prison who self-sabotaged.  A lot of guys would fight because they couldn't handle the tension.  When one's future is arbitrarily in the hands of others who do not actually care about you at all; it is stressful. 

The parole board forced the one I hated more than anything back into my life.  She was insisting that because she had been working in prisons for so long, and knew some of the parole officers, that it would help me get out sooner if she was at the meeting.   I couldn't argue with that.  She showed up in her prison uniform like she was fucking proud of it or something.  I just wanted out of the ghetto really bad.  My contempt for her at this point was practically out in the room at all times.  I was only allowed to have one person with me when I went in front of the board.

I was anxious all morning waiting for the phone to ring in Stan’s office.  They had their own room in the same building as the visiting room.  Because JoAnn was going to be there I had to be stripped searched before and after.  Got to get that humiliation in; don’t want to skip that part.  The board consisted of three people.  Within the parole system were parole board positions.  They paid more than in prison officer positions, but they had to travel to all of the prisons, all the time.

They asked me some questions.  Another job interview basically except all the stuff my in prison officer asked me was in front of them on paper already.  Almost just like the fucking movies.  These people probably didn't even like their own lives, so I knew they didn't care about me.  They were just doing their jobs to get a pay check.  Who dreams of being a prison parole officer when they are a kid?  Who has that passion in life? 

That was it.  Didn't last fifteen minutes.  Then it became the same waiting game I had been playing for three years just much more intense.  Most of the guys who had crimes similar to mine were getting three and four year out dates.  They were being made to do over five years.  I was prepared for that too, but I still had hope.  For the most part I played all my cards right.  The fighting violations really weren't a big deal in their eyes because it was expected.  When I had my interview with my in prison parole officer she asked me if I had done any drugs while in prison.  I just looked at her and said if you don't the white guys who stand up for themselves won't have your back.  They won't let you in their circle.  That's just how it is.  She nodded in understanding and said thanks for not lying.  There would have to be something seriously wrong with a person if they didn't want to smoke cannabis while stuck in prison. 

In the interview with her it was the same with the fighting.  She literally said it to my face that if you’re on lower hill and you don't have any fighting violations you’re somebody's bitch.  I just started laughing with her because I wasn't anyone's bitch.  My efforts in the weight pile were pretty obvious at this point.  I was like a tree.  Lifting weights was my church.  That's where I prayed the most. Even without any knowledge of prison life, or me, not many would assume I was someone’s bitch.  I do have the crazy eyes after all. 

The kicker was that she was engaged to my boss Stan.  I'm not saying she did anything wrong.  From my perspective the advantage was that she knew me at all.  She had some idea of who I actually was.  There was a social connection.  She knew my struggle in life.  She herself went on to help kids.  I wasn’t just another face with a number.  She saw past my façade’s a bit.  She would come to the office to chat with Stan when I was there sometimes.  I am sure that she and Stan talked about me when I was not around, and I never really hid much from Stan.  In order for him to be able to best help me he needed to know the truth.  I wanted that help.  When I got the verdict back she told me that she wrote me a good report.  I worked really hard after that to earn that privilege.  I can't say she stuck her neck out for me, but I wasn't going to be the one who made her look bad for writing it.

Getting the results back comes on an unknown day.  The phone call comes randomly.  I paced a lot waiting on that.  When I am anxious and pacing people say I am like a tiger in a cage.  It can be felt.  The gangsters gave me my space.  I had other stuff going on too.  I hadn’t talked to Rachel for several months. I wasn’t going to crack though.  My whole life, my future, was riding on this.  I was aware of my own institutionalization, and was not sure what another two or three years was going to do to me.  It was giving me a sick feeling thinking about it.  Two more years in the ghetto?  There is no way that much time in there would not have had a negative impact on me.  It was dangerous riding hope like I was, but I had to.  Bad news would probably have ended with me in the hole for a while. 

I sat down in her office.  She hadn't even opened the envelope yet.  She was waiting for me.  As she opened it with her fingers the hair on the back of my neck stood up.  It was go time.  It's all riding on this.  I was at a fork in the road.  As she read it she smiled and told me congratulations.  I got a two year out date.  I asked her to re-read it to make sure.  I had to contain myself, but I was also stunned.  Something good had just happened to me.  That was a rare thing in my life. I’ve never been quick to believe good things.  I wanted to run screaming out of the building, but couldn’t.  I couldn’t openly celebrate at all.  I had to be super careful.  I could not fuck this up. 

It wasn't all good.  Cats that didn't get good outdates tended to want to take it out on cats who did.  I lost a lot of power that day.  A lot.  I went from being a guy with a ten year sentence, to a guy getting out in a year.  It's a big difference.  Huge. There were more than a few white guys really upset with me over it.  I shrugged them off.  I even told one of them who kept making comments right to his face, "I did the thing, I did what I had to do to get out early, and you didn't."  I told him, "I didn't hold you back."  He didn't really want to put me to a fight, he was just bitter.  Him and I had shoulder boxed a bit.  He didn't want to fight me at all.  The gangsters though were different.  They would be well aware I couldn't afford to fight as easily as I could prior to that verdict.

Luckily for me there was a work release program, and I was getting out of the ghetto for good.