Prison 101:15

STOP! This material is NOT edited for content. It is not fiction. It contains explicit language and descriptions of real situations. It is not suitable for minors, and may not be suitable for people who easily disturbed…


I was in the mess hall with a work crew one day. I had been working with this crew for a couple of years. The way the movement worked in this prison, the work crews were fed after population, or pop as we called it.

What it amounted to for us, was that we sat for quite a while, while the mess hall emptied out, so our C.O.’s could come and pick us up.  In a Max inmates don’t move unescorted. No officer, you sit and wait. In a medium you go everywhere on your own. Sitting and waiting on your officer in a max mess hall you ended up seeing a lot of the crazy stuff that goes on.  After all you’re stuck there, there isn’t much to do but watch.

While we’re sitting there, I watched this kid keep getting into a beef with an older guy. The older guy would nod his head patiently, and walk away from the kid, but the kid would chase him down, and start the shit all over again. The old guy put up with that for a good fifteen minutes, before he turned to the kid and warned him off.

The four of us on the work crew, sat and wondered what might happen next. But the kid walked away, and the old guy went back to working. I just made up my mind to watch something else to pass my time, when the kid came back from the kitchen and threw a punch at the old guy. The old guy backed up, pulled a pen from his pocket and stabbed the kid in the eye with it. The mess hall was locked down for the next four hours and we were stuck there sitting at a table by ourselves for most of that time.

Another time, a bad one, I was sitting in the mess hall with the Carpentry shop crew. And two men got into an argument. The argument went back and forth several times, the one guy would run his mouth to the other, and the other would say some slick shit back. Eventually the mess hall emptied out and it was just four of us waiting to get picked up.

At that point the mess hall workers come out and mop, pick things up, clean tables, so it isn’t unusual for them to be walking around.

So the one kid comes back carrying an aluminum tray in his hands. He says nothing as he walks up behind the guy. The guy senses him and begins to turn. The kid takes the tray and slams it into his eyes. Blood went everywhere. They had to call in a specially trained Bio Hazzard crew to clean up. The state police showed up. Markers were set by every blood drop and photographed. We sat there through the whole thing.

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Do our cats eat better than we do?

Have you ever been on your way to the kitchen to make a peanut butter sandwich, with jelly of course, at 1:30 A.M. and of course you just get the bread out and the noise of the plastic wrapper alerts the cats, and they are on you like… Well, cats on people with food.

So, you managed to get the bread out of the bag, whole wheat, if you are going to eat P&J at 1:30 A.M. you need to be health conscious: So, you leave the bread on a napkin on the counter, if you have ever been married you know this is not like the bad old days, the single days, you can’t leave crumbs on the counter and hope the dog gets up there and cleans them up before breakfast; because if the wife sees them you are in for it. She buys napkins for a reason, after all. Ask her, she’ll tell you. Screw up and leave crumbs she’ll also tell you.

So, bread on the napkin and off to take care of the cats, because cats are not like dogs. Dogs wait to be fed, cats demand to be fed at any time they choose. If a dog wants breakfast they will wait patiently until you get up and then accept the breakfast, and maybe a few bites of whatever you are eating, that they knew would be coming. A cat, on the other hand will jump up onto your face at 2:00 A.M. and smack the crap out of you until you get up and feed them.

So, bread on the napkin and off to the cat food bag, a handful on each plate because cats cannot stand to eat together, they must have their own plates so that they can then shove the nearest cat out of the way, eat all their food, and then go back to their own plate. Then you have to get the wet food, because a cat will surely kill you dead if you think they are going to simply eat dry food. With a dog you can run a little warm water over the dry food and tell them it is gravy. Don’t try that with a cat.

So, wet food interspersed with the dry food, set down both plates and then go back to the sink to wash the cat food smell off your hands, and on the way you notice that the cat food doesn’t smell as bad as it usually smells. Not fishy, more… Well, tasty smelling. Like it could be something gourmet, like that coffee Jules’s friend Mister Tarantino serves in Pulp Fiction. So, because you are a man you stop and sniff your hands. No, women don’t do this, just men, it is a cave man thing, evolutionary in origin, probably came about because some cave wife yelled at her cave husband for having stinky hands. Most cave men probably did. After all, there was no antibacterial soap back then, in fact Dial had not even been invented, so your hands were going to smell bad on occasion: It only makes sense that a cave wife wouldn’t stand for that too long.

So, you sniff your hand, and Whoa!!! It is some gourmet stuff! It smells really good, like it might make a much better sandwich than that P&J you were about to build; way better. It smells as good as that sandwich you got out a vending machine that time you were drunk and hungry and happened to be at the hospital. That good; of course you can’t really remember how good it was exactly because you were drunk and in the hospital after all, and really the whole night was a blur, but the sandwich, the sandwich stood out, and you’re pretty sure it had nothing to do with your vomiting later on, that was just too much drink, that’s all.

You look from your hands to the bread, then you think… There are a few more cans left… Maybe… But, you are civilized and so you continue on to the sink and wash your hands, even though you don’t even have a wife anymore, and so if you wanted to have stinky hands you could, but no, civilized, and so you wash your hands, make that P&J and spend the next few minutes eating it and hating the cat for having better food that you do…

Has that ever happened to you? … Me either… AA

Prison 101:14

STOP! This material is NOT edited for content. It is not fiction. It contains explicit language and descriptions of real situations. It is not suitable for minors, and may not be suitable for people who easily disturbed…



In a max you are required to go to Breakfast and Lunch in the mess hall. Dinner is optional. You just stay in your cell or go to the yard recreation instead of the mess hall.

Most men in a max cook on the radiators. They are on about nine months out of the year in this state, and they are so hot you can cook on them. You can also buy a hot pot, and or a stinger in some places. The stinger drops into the food, plug it in and it heats it. You can have cookware, a few pans with lids. Bowls to store or even cook food in. A plastic bowl with a lid can cook on top of a radiator. Put the rice in, the water, the other ingredients. Put the top on it. Wrap it in towels to hold the heat in, leaving the bottom open to sit on the iron radiator top, and leave it for a few hours. My method was to put everything in the bowl, seal it, wrap it, and go to work. Six hours later when work was done I had a bowl of hot, cooked food all ready. Stir it up and eat it. It worked great.

In a medium they have an actual kitchen or cooking area. Microwaves, sometimes even a stove top. Men cook full blown meals there.

I got a Spanish cellmate for a few years. He liked to cook, and I swear he used jalapenos in everything. I mean the guy could not cook without them, so after a while I just got used to it. One time he got some habaneros from the prison garden. They are much hotter than the jalapenos, but he didn’t know, he chopped them up and put them in our food just as if they were jalapenos. Nearly killed us.

I used to hate squid, octopus, spicy food, but I got used to all of it there. Most of the best radiator cooks in prison are Spanish. In the Max I had been in for seven years there were also fireplaces in the yard. A few dozen of them. Guys cook there year around. It was one of the strangest things about that prison, you could buy anything in the yard. There are showers just off the yard, so sex is sold there. The fireplaces are all cooking and selling all kinds of food. And anything you could imagine: Drugs, Alcohol and everything in between is sold right there in the yard. The CO’s know it, but they have their own hustles or are involved in some of what goes down there too, or maybe it is so huge that they look at it like a thing they could never even make a dent in, so everyone pretends they see nothing.

Cash is stamps or unopened packs of cigarettes, or, in some case, Loosies (Those are single cigarettes. Something might cost three Loosies). A very alien place at first, but I got used to it fast. Very often if I did not want to cook or go to chow, I would go to the yard and then buy a hotdog and a Coke and sit somewhere at eat. Sounds like a baseball game, right?

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Prison 101:13

STOP! This material is NOT edited for content. It is not fiction. It contains explicit language and descriptions of real situations. It is not suitable for minors, and may not be suitable for people who easily disturbed…

So prison can be really ultra-violent. I can see why some guys aren’t really worried about it though, because it is like bullies. They pick and choose who they will mess with, and usually they will not mess with guys who have their shit together, or gang members, etc. You see a lot of young men join the extremist Muslim groups that preaches kill all white skinned people and become extremists themselves. You see white boys join white supremacy groups or go the other way and become a Muslim, because the Muslims will protect them from anything that comes their way. I’m talking about Sunni or Shiite Muslims, not the extremists or the 5 percenters.  They probably sat in a cell at some point and told themselves, “Well, I have to go one way or the other,” made the decision and were okay. Once you belong to a gang or religion you’re untouchable without permission.

I did not belong to any gang, but I would say the way I did my time is rare. I took a lot of chances at first by refusing people and affiliations, but I had also already done time several years prior, and so I knew the way things are, and I knew some pretty influential people. I also did not break any prison rules, IE: I did no drugs, alcohol, gambling or messing with homosexuals (They just call them Homos in prison, or if they are an item, the guy will introduce the other guy/girl as his wife). And I was not a gang member. And so that kept me out of ninety-nine percent of the conflicts. The rest I dealt with as it came.


For a year or so I worked doing computer programming for the prison. Hey, if you have talent they use it. They paid me well, and they set me up with a good job in the prison wood shop.

So I’m there a few days and a guy that works there, a very talented artist, gives me some crap all at once. He’s a big guy, kind of weird too, but I don’t know who he is and there is a C.O. right there when he does it so I really don’t know what to do. When he leaves, the C.O. Says “If you let him start that shit he’ll talk any way he wants to you.”

So I say, “No problem, as long as it is not going to piss you off, (because the guy works for him) I’ll put him in his place.” Another inmate there speaks up and says, ”Well, you know he’s a serial killer, right?”

“Ha ha,” I say.

“No, he really is,” the C.O. Says.

Fuck, I think.

Turns out he was a serial killer, he had killed something like thirty people that he had confessed to, and they thought the real number might be much higher.

So later in the day I wait for him to come back. I’m thinking, there is no way I’m letting this guy talk to me that way. I’ll just be cool about it.

He comes in and I say, “Yo. We need to talk.” in my best prison guy voice. So we step outside of the office area, and I say “Listen, I don’t give a fuck how many people you killed, if you ever fuckin’ talk to me like that again I’m gonna kick your fuckin’ ass, got it?” I mean, I went the total tough guy route. And you know what? He started crying. I didn’t know what to say. I just waked away. The C.O., smart ass that he was says, “Oh, you made the serial killer cry.” I was like, what now?

He never spoke to me nasty again, but after that he wanted to be my friend. I mean he would cook on his radiator in the winter, we all did, we would make pretty complicated stuff too, but after that he would always send me food. I was always afraid to eat it though, I mean, some people he killed he might have killed by poison, right? It was weird. I bring the guy up because he had no remorse at all. He did not care that he had killed a bunch of people, nothing. It was a lesson to me, there are some people in the world that will use you, and they will not care. It was where I had been in my addictions, if I were to be honest with myself, and where I was sinking deeper into before I came to prison, I may have never understood a thing about myself if I had kept on that path. I certainly would never have begun to work on myself. It really was kind of freaky, scary too that he attached himself to me after that. I would go the yard maybe once a year, he would find me and hang out with me every time and so people would get a little freaked out by that.

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Prison 101:12

STOP! This material is NOT edited for content. It is not fiction. It contains explicit language and descriptions of real situations. It is not suitable for minors, and may not be suitable for people who easily disturbed…

In prison there was this female C.O. who would not take no for an answer. She ran the block I locked in (Where you lock is where you live) so she would come get me to do all these things back in the storage room, move boxes, etc. I knew it was a matter of time before she pushed the issue harder, so I talked to my day boss, another C.O. And he pulled some strings and got me moved out of that block. Two months later she got caught back in that supply room with an inmate. Dumb.

In prison I did not watch TV. I went to late yard recreation with whatever workout partner I had, Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights, and did hardcore cardio sets.

In the maxes, where I spent 7 years, you have cells and you have your own TV in your cell. Watch what you want when you want, but when I went to the mediums it is usually open sixty man dorms. Think of pole barn for cattle or livestock, only setup with rows of cots and lockers. And an area closed off with a TV. The gangs lock that area down. They have their shit they want to control in prison and TV is one of them. More men get stabbed over TV in the mediums than anything else. I came close a few times and finally decided it was not worth the drama.

There are many ways that drama comes to you. I remember once meeting a guy who had just come from a max to the medium I was in. He gravitated to me. He told me a story about how he had done his time in the maxes. Hard core, he had several bodies, letters on the end of his bid (Letters = life). A young guy I looked out for saw him and came to me and said, … “Hey, that dude is one of the guys that sets up young guys… Turns them.”  I thought, no way, but the kid gave me times, dates and details and then even bought more young guys into it that had dealt with him.

There is a gang of guys in every max that does that. They pray on the young guys that have just come in from the streets. Steal them blind, take all of their stuff and put them to work. It goes further, they also threaten them like this… “The next time that girl comes to see you she has to bring an ounce of coke, or weed, or whatever.” They tell him what day the visit takes place too, because they know the C.O. that will be on and they know they can get the contraband in. If the kid says no, they send a gang member by his house on the street just to let them know what the deal is. That is extreme, but it happens. So this guy was one of the ones in the max this kid had been in that had done this for years, and this kid remembered him. He and some others wanted to kill him for the things he had, had a hand in doing to them.

So I went to the guy and I said, “Look someone said this.” He said it wasn’t true. I said, “Well, they say it is and they want you to know that you would probably be better off in another prison or in P.C. because they’re gonna touch you.” (Fuck him up at least, kill him most likely) He went into PC and then transferred out a week or so later. They were going to do some really bad shit to him, rape him, probably kill him, or at least try to kill him. I understand that. If the man forced them into selling themselves, or threatened their families, I completely understand it. It isn’t a place I would ever allow myself to be in, but I understand their anger over it.

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Prison 101:11

STOP! This material is NOT edited for content. It is not fiction. It contains explicit language and descriptions of real situations. It is not suitable for minors, and may not be suitable for people who easily disturbed…

In prison I understood the drugs. I knew speed had me from the first day I ever tried it. I started at about 11. When I was on the streets I switched to methamphetamine, easier to get even back then. It almost killed me twice, I mean like blood pressure over 220, stroked out, but I could not quit. I finally managed to stop. I watched my son being born and that floored me. I watched my cousin Mike continue on with Cocaine and die in his sleep, massive heart attack at twenty-six. I had another friend I saw check out from that same drug with a heart attack in his early thirties. Bad stuff, all of it, and I cannot tell you why it didn’t get me back then, why it took so long. But because I understood it, I saw the draw. I could see how these guys came to prison with addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, and how they could be unable to stop those addictions even though they knew it would probably kill them. Too bad it didn’t also convince me to stop drinking, but there was still time left on that train wreck

In prison I was always the guy that had to stand up to the bullies. You would think from watching prison movies that all the guys in prison are bad asses. Nope. Most are bullies that had it made outside of prison, but they can’t run the same game there. That’s because in prison there is always someone who will yank their chain. Out in the world they might intimidate someone, but inside the guy will say, “Let’s go then. Right now.” And then the game is up. Many times I ended up being the guy that had to yank that guy’s chain. I hated it because, although I have skills, I am not superman. My ass can be kicked, and that could have cost me more time, and it could also lead to violence, and violence doesn’t solve violence. But the other part of me, the part that was ashamed of the way I used to be and hated bullies just could not pass it up.

The biggest scam was extortion. A big guy comes along and tells a kid, ‘Look, when you go to commissary next time you are going to pick this list of shit up for me, if you don’t I am going to fuck you up so bad you may not ever make it home.’

The kid could tell a C.O., or drop a slip as we used to say. If he did either, the most that would happen would be that he would get placed into P.C., but P.C. Is not a safe place. It is just as easy for someone to get to someone in P.C. as it is in Pop. Or the C.O. may tell him flat out, ‘Deal with it. I don’t care.’ So really, unless you have a bigger guy you can send to have a conversation with that bully, you better be getting his list of shit when you next go to commissary.

Jesus. I used to watch those kids write those letters. Their family, sister/mom/brother/aunt is barely making it outside and they are asking them for top of the line sneakers and cartons of cigarettes. Wow. I could not believe it, but that is the mentality there. It’s the extreme of what men inside put their families through, not the least of which is writing for cigarettes, boots, sneakers and anything else they think they can talk their grandmother on social security into, so they can pay off those guys that are extorting them. It makes you want to smack the shit out of guys like that.

Smacking the shit out of someone really doesn’t do any more than say I can do that to you and you have to take it. It makes the person worse, not better. So I used to step in, but I policed myself. Stuck to my guns. Never overstepped the boundaries I myself set. There were a few times that I stepped into an extortion that some guy was doing and shut them down. I cannot tell you how many times guys told me someone would kill me eventually, but that’s just another bully tactic. No one ever got me. I walked out the door in one piece, and I was glad I stepped into situations and stopped those situations. It made me feel better about me.

I was tempted to get a tattoo a few times in prison, but I knew two different guys that nearly died from Hep. On top of that I taught and played guitar in prison and those guys would buy my bottom strings to cut up into needles for their home made tat guns (Made from cassette players) I knew how long those guys used those needles, and how clean they were, too long, and not very, so I took a pass even though I saw some really good artists.

I did see guys do tattoo work in prison who were very careful, and other guys that were very sloppy. I saw guys in prison eat from the same bowl as their friends. By that I mean they make food in bowls, rice dishes usually, cooked on top of the radiators, then they get two or three forks and they all eat directly from the bowl together. It used to freak me out because of AIDS and HEP and TB, and I would see guys eat after guys who had those things. It just made no sense to me. So dirty needles for tattoos were not the only thing to be concerned about. Prison is like one huge infectious nightmare. You have to be careful, and tattoos are just one small part of that care.

There was a guy who had ‘Fuck You Cop’ written on his forehead. The C.O.’s hated him, but could do nothing. Every time they had to frisk him they would be staring at ‘Fuck You Cop‘. They gave him a hard time all the time. Rough in prison, and not so good when or if you go home. The guy had life so he didn’t care, and it bought him a certain amount of prison cred with some inmates and a few of the C.O.’s too. In prison lots of guys get their girls face done. Usually not good as they are rarely together long into the bid. And some prison artists are not that good. So they end up with a face that doesn’t look like their girl… Forever too.

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I have spent the past week getting things rolling. I think, like many of you, I believed this would be over quickly and we would be back to whatever sort of new life-mixed with our old life-that remained. As the time goes on I can see that is not going to be the case. It isn’t surprising that we have now been turned on each other. That is politics, get us to fight each other about what it is, when we should be free to go out again, when it will end, and of course when it will really end, and we won’t have time to look at the politics of the whole thing.

No, I am not political, as pathetic as it might sound I just want us to learn to get along. I think the truth is that as long as we have people that hold our strings, we will always be puppets in some way, no matter what we think.

So, what to do? First, be more empathetic, that is my go to tool. I learned a long time ago that I personally am too quick to judge. I always adopted the attitude that if it affected me then I had to argue my side of it, not true, or not complete, because the other side feels as strongly about their position, and in some cases even stronger. I used to dismiss the other side of the coin, the other persons feelings, because I compared it to myself and judged them wrong. Yes, I did that, but we all eventually do see that other side if we allow ourselves to grow and feel, and empathize. Because if the other persons viewpoint is valid to them, then it is a real position. It matters. It doesn’t matter that you or I might not be able to see it, it only matters that that person can see and feel it and it is real to them.

How is that helpful to me? Clearly it makes me care about someone other than myself, and it is something I can do without endangering myself, my family, my friends, it is bending enough to see a different viewpoint, and being mature enough to accept it as a fact. And, that is important. Because there are things we do that we think means we are changing, bending, evolving, that can be dangerous: We can lose ourselves, in trying to pacify someone else, trying to bend to someone elses will: That is not empathy. That can damage us, it can hurt people around us, and it can even change the course of our life in a negative way. Empathy is understanding. It is taking the time to validate someone elses feeling, ideas, even lifestyle, even if you do not understand it completely or embrace it yourself. It is being mature enough to say other people and what they feel is as important as you and what you feel.

Does it mean you should change your life to accommodate them? No, it doesn’t. It does mean that you can begin to understand that there is a world of different out there.

No two people are the same under the surface, and the differences they embrace are valid for them even if they are not for you. I have people in my life that think differently about things than I do. I mean, people who are Republicans, or Democrats, or Atheists, or Jews, Or Buddhists or Gay or Straight, or Nurses, OR Aids patients, or Ministers, or on and on. I don’t worry about it. Sincerely, I don’t spend my time wondering what atheist friend thinks about my beliefs. Or whether because I have friends that are gay I’m gay too. I don’t because it is not part of our relationship. They find out quickly that I am exactly who I am and I find the same thing about them. In other words, there are no masks, no pretense that I care about all the things they do. That I am friends with them to look good, or they with me. It takes time to build that sort of relationship. It also takes strength of character, because you are not bending to their will, or trying to bend them to your will, you are just being you, and it starts with empathy. Realizing that others feelings are as valid as yours are.

So I watch all the stuff going on and then I continue my life. I care about the circle I have, I can’t do more than that. If I try I could lose my own way. And, I’m not an idiot, I can read between the lines. I can see things are taking longer, I saw that they would before this whole thing started. You can’t shut down the worlds economy and then just jump-start it back to life when you feel like it. It is going to take time, patience, understanding and yes, even empathy for how others feelings matter.

I have friends who depend on close contact for their livings and they are suffering, I mean that. I see days tick by, and I know it hurts them, but the fact is it is going to take as long as it is going to take. It would be best if all of us could get together and work out a plan of how to put our lives back on track, but we can’t. We can see that by watching the news. The two main political parties can’t even agree, so how are we supposed to agree?

We can practice empathy. Yes, it sounds like crap, but it isn’t, because empathy means understanding, not bending to accept someone elses viewpoint. It means that if you can do that you will be less upset. Not let all of this break you down. Because people who like to influence others depend on that. They believe if they continue to stir the pot you will get sick of all that crap they are distributing and cave in. Empathy means you can understand it, but you don’t have to go past that. Just be you, draw back, don’t let it consume you.

Does that mean it will stop? Of course not, but tomorrow it will be more of the same, or a new angle being flung at you, something, and if you are smart enough to know that you don’t have to feed into it, that you are also entitled to empathy, feelings, your own position, that you are worthwhile it will be easier to continue to be you. Stick by your positions. Wait this out, because there will be a day when we are talking about how it was, not how it is… Dell

Prison 101:10

STOP! This material is NOT edited for content. It is not fiction. It contains explicit language and descriptions of real situations. It is not suitable for minors, and may not be suitable for people who easily disturbed…


I saw the same things cause the same problems in prison over and over again. In the real world we said it was Drugs, Gambling and Pussy. In prison it is the same, only whatever can pass for pussy, usually that is a guy, but sometimes it is a civilian woman or officer.

You have to be so careful, it is major drama. If the guy is pretty, woman like, some gang will take control and then there is major drama. Men who have long-term lovers often refer to the man as their wife.

I watched the homosexuals, and the guys who had been turned as we called it, come and go. They were never around long because they were instant trouble. Men got stabbed and died because of them, gang shit popped off because of them. It was always bad, and the whole prison sometimes sighed in relief when they left.

The gamblers were another matter. The same guys doing the same dumb shit they did on the streets. I met a guy who liked to gamble. He ended up going up against a friend of mine who was very good. My friend had been in a motorcycle gang before he came in. Not a joke, a genuine bad ass. I had nothing to do with the situation that came to be, but heard about it after the fact. Usually the guys he gambled with gambled for a few bucks, maybe a few hundred if it was a big football game, a once a year thing, but most of the time it was small change, but this guy got into my friend for several thousand dollars.

My friend told the guy he had to pay when he came to him whining about how he didn’t have that much. There wasn’t a choice, so the guy said no problem. A few days later he gives my friend the money.

I found out months later what had happened through another friend, after the C.O.’s came and snatched my friend from the rec yard. Another friend told me what happened. The guy’s wife had stolen the money from where she worked. The guy had called her and lied. He told her he had to pay it for protection or he would be killed. The wife got caught, she told what the husband had said, the husband turned on the guy and that was that. The wife got two years, my friend got a few more years added on, and the guy that owed the debt got transferred to another prison. So there really are guys in prison who should be there and they are just as big a scum bag in prison as they were outside of it. I felt badly for the wife.

Drugs were a bad deal too. I saw a lot of bad shit happen because of drug deals. Men come from the streets thinking they can keep their addictions. They get right into a guy for whatever their drug of choice is. Heroin, Cocaine, Pot, Alcohol and pretty much everything else. You don’t see much E, Methamphetamine, or Crack, simply because guys too often lose their heads on that stuff and then once they come too in the hospital or the box they tell on everyone. That is bad for their health, and they will pay for it, but it is also bad for the seller and they will also pay for it. Most of the time they run up a bill for H, or Pot, or whatever and then they decide, irrationally, that they can stiff the guy and nothing can happen to them. That always ends up bad. Usually they send someone to converse with them. That is what they say, converse, like we are all sane and things are just fine, and we’re just having a conversation here, that’s all.

Conversing rarely does any good, so the next thing is they send the guy that spends all day at the weight shack in the yard. He gets a job there because other than lift weights he has nothing else he wants to do, but he has to live, buy commissary, so occasionally he smacks the shit out of someone that owes money to one of the connections for gambling, drugs, or ass.

Sometimes getting your ass kicked pretty hard does it for you and you cough up the money or make plans to pay it back: If you are a young, good looking guy that might mean you’ll get passed around to a few men until the debt is paid off.

I saw this happen more than once:

You are out in the yard on Friday night. Recreation is close to over. The shift change has happened. It is the weekend coming up so all the officers will be fill ins in most cases, or swapping their time. The officer you came to the rec yard with won’t be the officer you’ll go back with. The officers watching you over the weekend also won’t be the officers that have that block the majority of the time.

You have to go back and spend the night with a guy in his cell, in place of his cell mate. So you both head for the bathroom, one place where you are not totally observed. The one guy is wearing something bright, something that will be noticed. You switch those tops, usually a sweat shirt, yellow, red, doesn’t matter. You also switch prison issue tops, they have your name on them. You walk out of the bathroom like you have the biggest balls in the world. When the block you have to go to is called you walk over and get in that line. The C.O. Counts. All he cares about is he came out with thirty six men and he is taking back thirty six men. The shift has changed since you came out, they always wait until afternoon Rec. And so you go back and become someone’s lover, willingly, or to pay a debt. Tomorrow you will do the same thing at early rec and go back to your own block.

Then I scoffed at the idea of getting involved in any sort of trouble like that, being one of those dummies, but there was a time before I went to prison where drama was in my life nearly all the time. I hated it, but I was also the creator of it most times. Either because of the lifestyle I lived, the people in my life, or the things I had done to others in my life. So I have been that dummy a few times in my life and it never turned out good for me.

I actually fell in love with a woman who was addicted to crack back in the late 80’s. We called them crack heads back then, male or female, it didn’t matter. All they cared about was the drug, getting it no matter what.

I didn’t know she was addicted to crack at first, when I found out I was at that fuck it, it doesn’t matter stage. I went to her place one night and she was high, a few minutes later some guy starts pounding on the door. Her supplier. She had been cracking it up on a tab, probably told him I would pay him. He pulled a knife, she pulled a knife and I was in the middle of it.

I stopped it, I’m a big guy, I suspect the little dealer guy didn’t want to really fuck with me, maybe thought I’d still be a problem if he stabbed me. Like an idiot I paid the guy off too. That was the end of her for me, but that was pretty bad. It could have cost me a lot.

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Prison 101:9

STOP! This material is NOT edited for content. It is not fiction. It contains explicit language and descriptions of real situations. It is not suitable for minors, and may not be suitable for people who easily disturbed…


If I knew a guy that was drugging, getting tattoos or messing with a dude I just had to keep some limits between us. I was not, and am not, homophobic, but in the prison population AIDS, HEP B, HEP C and TB are rampant. I mean, I have seen guys get the news. It’s always horrible, and you can see it on their faces even if you don’t hear the words they just heard.

We are tested for HEP and TB every year and you can volunteer for AIDS tests every year too. I did it all every year.  I know that AIDS is not able to be passed except by direct contact, but I just can’t reconcile that in my head. I see guys work out, guys that have aids, and they spit and sweat everywhere and then another guys gets right in where they were and works out right behind them, never cleans up, nothing. The thing is there is spray right there. It is a state law, there has to be a spray there to kill whatever may be on the equipment. You are supposed to spray down the equipment/weights before and after use. Because the workouts are hard and there is also from time to time going to be blood from slight cuts etc. Every time I worked out I cleaned everything before and after.


In prison you can have AIDS, in this state anyway, and no one can know. Not the C.O.’s, staff. No one at all. And several times there have been inmates who had it and just wanted to bring as many with them as they could. I was shocked. Who would do that? There are people who will do it. There is no means of protection during sex, so inmates steal the surgical gloves the CO’s use for strip searches and use those. You can imagine how well that doesn’t work. But you have to look at the reality of the situation too. I used to try to talk to some of these guys, but they just don’t care. They are criminals. Their whole life has been criminal, usually back and forth to prison after they graduated from county. Not that I thought I was better, I used to tell myself, but I had not set out ever to be a criminal, never liked it, never let it infect me, so I never had that complete unconcern for consequences that a lot these guys have. And that, I told myself, is what it is. They simply do not care. In this state there are seminars that inmates have to participate in yearly so they are aware of the hazards of sex in prison. All that there is to stop it, all the reasons, and yet they don’t utilize it.

As I had that thought I was sitting in the recreation yard cooling off after a workout and watching sex going on not far from me. You may not think that can be, but it can be. In any case, I realized then just how narrow my thinking was, because as an addict I did have that complete lack of care for what I did or who I hurt. It was that one day after a workout, sitting and waiting for the C.O.’s to line us up and take us back that the switch finally flipped and I saw it. Up until then I had held myself apart from criminals, but there was really no difference. It was just one more lie I had devised for myself to make my lifestyle okay, moral even, and I had finally seen it while I had sat in a Max prison recreation yard looking down on the other men I was doing time with.


Very bad as you can imagine. There is stolen alcohol, bleach and iodine to sterilize with, but you have to pay the guys that stole it and that cuts into your profit, so a lot of the guys that are doing the work just say fuck it. Many inmates use guitar strings, cut them to very small pieces with nail clippers and sell them for needles. They make a lot of money doing it. You have to have a permit to have a guitar, and you have to have a guitar to get the strings. Most guys that do the work did not even seem to care that they were getting blood on themselves too, and they were using the same string over and over until it just wouldn’t stay sharp and the guys were bleeding even more because the cassette player motor they used to build a Tat Gun (Tattoo Machine) was just ramming it through their skin.


Needles are so hard to get in prison that the ones they do have, have been shared over and over again. And, believe it or not, there are guys with serious heroin habits that inject. They almost always contact HEP immediately. It’s just crazy. The other part of drug use is how they pay for it. Many of the younger guys end up getting a habit and then pay with sex. And the dudes they are sleeping with have AIDS because they have been there for years and slept with everyone they could.

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Prison 101:8

STOP! This material is NOT edited for content. It is not fiction. It contains explicit language and descriptions of real situations. It is not suitable for minors, and may not be suitable for people who easily disturbed…


In 2005 I had a massive heart attack and stroke. I had been in the system a few years by then. And I was paying for all the drugs and alcohol I had done. I Would have died except an officer I worked for was there and got me, carried by six big guys, right to the clinic, where it just so happened that the lady on duty was a Cardiac ER nurse during the day. Shot me full of blood thinners and got me to a hospital where the surgery was done. She saved my life.

I spent two weeks in a cardiac unit chained to the bed. The nurses used to piss off the C. O’s and hang out and talk to me. The C. O’s were like ‘Hey! Don’t talk to the prisoner!’ The day I left they bought me the biggest hamburger I ever saw. I said, I can eat that? They laughed and said, ‘Yes, not all the time, but on occasion you can.’

I transferred back to the prison, spent some time in the hospital there, an overheated, dirty hospital with a doctor that did not care what your problems were. You stayed locked down. No recreation of any kind. Sealed, overheated rooms, no fresh air. No walking. No exercise as I was told I should try to get daily. No bandage changes as there should have been. You learn fast that the quality of care you sometimes get in a prison hospital is going to be pretty poor. At other times though you get top rate care. It was a contrast to me how quickly I was moved out when I had the heart attack, how well I was treated, and how poorly treated afterwards.

In prison we used to laugh at the doctors they had. What kind of doctor are you going to get for 35k a year? Well usually ones that were forced out of their regular practice by lawsuits or ones that were just fuck ups. We had one doctor, his line was, “I doctor, you okay. Now get fuck out for I tell cop lock you up!” Nice guy, that doctor. I have fond memories, warm and fuzzy even. I remember I saw him one day because I needed my pills re-filled. He does the pills, and then he says, “You need something else?” I said, “Well now that you mention it I need my other prescription soon. You could do it now.” He looked at me, I am not making this up, and says “Good…Good… Then you drop fuckin’ swip (He meant slip, we had to send a slip or request to see him) see me.” What a dick. In other words he asked me only so he could tell me to go fuck myself. I had to laugh, that’s the kind of guy he was. A few weeks of that sort of care and I was glad to get back to Pop., and reality.

When I got all the way back on my feet I realized that prison is not the place you want to be if you’re not taking care of your health. I started workouts with a few of the guys I had begun hanging out with. It took about six months, after heart surgery no less, to get myself back in fair shape. Another six months and I was strong. Going to yard rec every morning at sunup, including the middle of winter. I stayed away from weights and went for pushups, cardio. Not a few hundred a day but well over a thousand in an hour, at least five times a week. I went through a lot of work out partners over the years, but I always found guys willing to jump into workouts with me. It was something that stayed with me for the rest of my bid too.

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