“Mr. Judge, you’re very lucky to be alive.”
These were the first words that came out of the Disciplinary Hearing Officer’s mouth.
I said while sitting, handcuffed behind my back, in a blue plastic chair across the desk from “The Hammer.”
The Hammer was a squirrely looking man in his forties. He was about 5’9 with a military issue buzz cut that he wore proudly and smugly as he took every little bit of your freedom away from you. (After you were thoroughly searched of course). The nickname came from his total smashing of any unlucky soul who had the misfortune of sitting across from him in handcuffs.
“This is one of the more violent altercations I’ve observed in my time as a hearing officer.”
“Yes sir.” I repeated as I attempted to move my arms into a semi-comfortable position.
“Obviously, I’ve seen the tape and from the report here in front of me, I’m up to speed on this incident.”
“Yes sir.” I stated for the third time.
I’ve unfortunately sat in this same chair multiple times. Directly facing the smug fucker who holds all the power over my prison life in the palms of his small sweaty hands.
“It says here that you received eight serious puncture wounds from various homemade weapons and were rushed to the hospital.” The bastard said to me as he looked up from his papers to inspect the visible bandages on my left arm.
I just nodded my head yes as I looked down at all the photos laid out on his desk.
“It also says that Mr. Banks and Mr. Hevner received multiple puncture wounds and were also rushed to the hospital where…” He paused to lick his thumb for dramatic affect as he flipped through his stack of papers to find what he was looking for.
“Mr. Banks was treated for seven puncture wounds. One resulting in a collapsed lung, I might add.” The wobbly headed son of a bitch smirked as he continued to flip through his reports.
“And Mr. Hevner had to get his liver stitched up along with treatment for third degree burns on his right foot.” He let out a conceited snicker as he tapped his papers into order on his desk and looked up at me.
“Do you have a statement?”
“I was just trying to stay alive, sir.” I said as I eased gingerly back into the chair.
“I would be too if I was viciously attacked by nineteen Mexicans. Unfortunately for you, the stand your ground law doesn’t apply in the BOP and I’m finding you guilty of fighting.” The pig fucker said with a smile on his face.
“Of course you are.” I muttered as I once again awaited ‘the hammering.”
“I’ll be taking your phone, commissary, email, and visiting privileges for one year.” He said with that same smug grin on his face like I just won free dryer sheets for a year.
“I’ll also be taking 67 good conduct days from you as well.”
“Why wouldn’t you.” I said under my breath.
“Mr. Judge, you have committed numerous violations of our rule book in your three and a half years in our institution. You have received conduct reports for homemade weapons, phone abuses, multiple alcohol distilleries, creating contraband to hide homemade weapons. Hell, huh.” He snorted out. “You’ve been placed under investigation for introducing tobacco and marijuana into the institution as well as selling heroin inside the facility.”
“Well, in my defense sir.” I said leaning up out of my chair. “It only seems bad when you say it all together like that.”
The fuckhead actually turned the color of a pig when he let out, “This last incident just caused a riot! Your stay in this institution is over!”
With that, I left the room and was escorted back to my cell. The cell where I would heal up and wait for a transfer to a new prison. My fourth in eleven years.
Now, everything that he said was true. I was found guilty of all those things, and placed under investigation for the others. But a lot of what happens in prison are things that are out of your control. You could have a celly that makes wine or has knives, and if they find it, you both get in trouble.
A rat who’s looking to gain something from the administration can set you up and plant shit in your cell. Or you could just be minding your own business, working out, and your buddy decides to go to war with every fucking Mexican in sight. The bottom line is that fucked up shit happens every day in prison. You’re surrounded by the crème’ de la crème’ of scumbags and assholes. And that’s just the cops I’m talking about here… then add in every nut job and low life who decided to check “other” on the preferred job chart in High School, and you have the perfect powder keg for dysfunctional living.
Me, I get along with everybody and do my best to stay out of the way. I’m just a suburban hippie kid doing his best to navigate through the horrors of monotonous living. I play soccer with all the Mexicans, sweat with all the Native Americans and workout with the white boys. I avoid all the politics and prison beefs that always pop up. As much as I can at least. This is home of a lot of dudes, and they’d really not have it any other way. Not for this kid though, I’m just passing through. Just a foolishly enlisted grunt for some forced consciousness expansion. While some kids my age voluntarily sign up for the military to scar them for life, I went the complete opposite end of the spectrum. I decided to rob a bank for my life’s education. Potato pa-toto. Either lane of the highway leads to the same pitiable destination…some flabby and balding psychiatrist’s couch at the age of forty. Now, all of the earlier aforementioned examples of prison ordeals have happened to yours truly at one time or another. But what the head douche bag of your federally funded dollars was referring to on this occasion was number three. The Mexican extravaganza where I became the ‘guerro’ substitute for the piñata.
It all happened two weeks ago on a late Sunday afternoon. I had just gotten back from brunch at elevenb o’clock and went to go start my workout routine.
“No time for your shit today.” I joked to Lumpy who was setting everything up.
“Motherfucker, if you and the Indian weren’t such lazy fucks, this shit would already be set up.” He shot back at me as he tied the homemade dumbbells to a mop stick.
“Listen, some of us have girls on the street that give a fuck about us.” I said smiling, since I just got off the phone before coming up the stairs.
“Well, in forty days we’ll see how much she still cares about you when my dick’s in her ass.” He joked as he stood up.
Lumpy is a thirty-two year old, 6’3 220 lb., Dirty White Boy from Missouri. I usually don’t hang out with gang members, especially ‘DWB’s’, but Lumpy is one of the most solid convicts I’ve met since I’ve been locked up. He only had forty days left after doing 13 years. No probation, no halfway house. A clean break from the system that’s had a hold on him since he was fifteen years old.
“Now where’s the fucking Indian?” He said looking around.
“God damnit, I’m right here.” Kevin said coming out of his cell with the toilet flushing. “I just had to drop the Cosby kids off at the pool.” Kevin is a stocky thirty year old Native American from Minnesota.
“Besides, I knew that Hippie was gonna come back and call his boyfriend after chow.” He joked patting his stomach.
“Yeah, yeah. Fuck you.” I said pointing at Kevin. “And fuck you.” I said pointing at Lumpy. “Are we gonna start or do your pussies hurt?”
“Let’s go then.” Lumpy said lying down on the rolled up mattress we used as a bench for our bench presses.
“You’re the motherfucker that has to go play soccer with a bunch of beaners today.” Kevin got behind him and lowered the weighted mop stick onto Lumpy’s chest. We’d always go in order. Lumpy, Kevin, then me. They never needed any help lifting the penitentiary concocted tonnage, other than lowering it on and off. I on the other hand would need a spot.
After we all went a round and started our second set, Tito came out of his cell irritated and tramped around us to grab his boots.
Tito is your typical Piasa (Mexican national). About 5’5 and 160 lbs. Wearing his hair in a buzz cut and rocks the obligatory mustache. Tito lived in the cell that we were working out in front of; actually the first six cells along the wall were all Piasa cells. We had to workout upstairs, back in that little nook so that the C/O’s and camera’s couldn’t see the rigged up weights that we obviously weren’t allowed to have.
Lumpy and Tito got into an argument a month earlier about us working out in the space. That was quickly squashed as I know him and all the other Piasa’s on my unit. Like I said, I play soccer with all of them and I’ve known most of them for years. If they ever have any problems with the whites, I’m the first one they come to about it. Likewise it’s the same way with me to them.
Yeah, we were in front of his cell working out, but Kevin lived in the last cell before the dugout in what forms an L shape. There two cells from an unobservable sort of cul de sac. Which means that it’s also considered outside of Kevin’s house too. So, with the politicking out of the way, we were free to do our workouts whenever we wanted. Which happened to be in the late morning six days a week.
Tito walked over to the railing that runs around the upstairs tier and started putting on his boots. The whole time he’s scowling at us while he’s lacing them up. Lumpy was positioned behind Kevin, who was lying down on the mat lifting the bar. After Kevin finished his set and Lumpy lifted the bar off him is when he spoke up. “Yo man, what’s up?” Lumpy says to Tito. “You got a problem or something?”
“Ah fuck.” I say noticing Tito mad dogging us. I also know Lumpy’s been looking for a reason to go at the dude from what happened earlier.
“What?” Tito says in his broken English.
“You lookin’ over here like you wanna do something.” Lumpy says with his chest poked out.
“No, no. I just looking at what you do.” Tito says walking towards us.
“Cause if there’s a problem, we can deal with it.”
“If I have problem, I tell you there’s problem.”
“Then don’t be looking over here like you gotta problem.” Lumpy says as he turns to me, “You’re up Hip.”
I lay down on the mat with Kevin behind me to give me the bar.
Lumpy was standing over me as my spotter, with his back turned to the now swarming Mexicans.
“Kevin, make sure these fucking beaners don’t jump on me with my back turned.” Lumpy says.
As I’m doing my set, I’m looking at the Mexicans lining up on the wall. Some of them are pulling knives out of their socks and putting them in their waistbands. “Grab it, Kev.” I say, thrusting the bar at him.
Lumpy sensed the urgency in my voice and turned around swiftly to see all the posturing Mexicans.
“What’s up?” He says taking his glasses off and putting them in his pocket. “You motherfuckers ain’t scaring nothing.”
“You say to me ‘you got problem.’ but I tell you I have no problem.” Tito says as he’s standing in the middle of his growing mob.
“Listen homes, we workout here every day at this time. You staring at us ain’t changin’ shit.” Lumpy says.
“I know you workout here. I tell you is no problem. So why you say dis ting to me?” Tito says, his balls growing bigger by the second surrounded by all his homeboys.
“Look.” I say jumping in-between Lumpy and the swarm of Piasa’s. “Everything’s all good here. It’s over with.”
“No shit every tings all good here, Hippie.” Tito says as he shakes my hand. “That’s what I try to tell you homie, but he no listen.” Peru, a short pudgy Mexican standing next to me on the wall, reached into his waistband and pulled out his knife. Hiding it behind his right leg. “Fucking puto.” He directs at Lumpy. Pelon and another Piasa named Pachuka stood against the opposite wall doing the same thing with their knives.
None of this is lost on Lumpy. “Look, we’ve been working out here for six months. You all grouping up ain’t changing a motherfuckin’ thing.” With that, Kevin exited stage left. “Yo guys, I got to go.” He said as he weaved out of the corner through the enraged Mexicans.
It was a white/Spanish issue now. In prison politics someone from another race can’t get involved in a racial dispute. Which, this was definitely brewing up to become a monster. It’s easy to tell when something is going down in prison. It gets eerily quiet. Like the calm before the storm. Time seems to stand still as the whole unit froths at the bit in anticipation of the inspiriting site of carnage. Most times the assemblage is disappointed in its thirst for blood. Just as in all things political, it’s mostly just posturing. A little display of strength into who will walk away with the spoils of war. The leaders come out, backed by their armed battalions and settle the terms of the embroilment. Everyone walks away to brag about what they ‘would’ve done.’
Flacco, the thirty year old shot caller for the Piasa’s came up the stairs the same time Chuck, one of our unit leaders did. “Hippie, what’s going on?” Flacco asks me looking around at the tense situation.
“Look, they had some words.” I said motioning to Lumpy and Tito. “And it’s over with.” I’ve played soccer with Flacco for over two years. In fact, we were going to play with each other right after all this. Flacco pulled up Tito and they started talking in Spanish.
“Yo, what da fuck is going on?” Chuck asks Lumpy and I.
Chuck is a muscular forty year old former power lifter turned crack head bank robber from Portland, Maine. He’s got ‘KO’ tat’d on his hands “cause I knock motherfuckers out.” He’s said. Lumpy started telling him what was going on as my celly Bobby came over and posted up on the rail behind the Mexicans.
Bobby’s built just like me, 5’10 and 170 lbs. We’re both runners. Neither of us is intimidating like Chuck and Lumpy, but we’re both people that the Mexicans have to think about dealing with. The problem that we were facing was that none of the other white dudes were coming up to show the threat of force. They all just sat around the TV, trying their best to not look at what everyone else in the unit was transfixed on. The Mexicans on the other hand were playing their part in the unfolding modern day Braveheart prison scene. All nineteen of them were lined up on the walls and grouped up around us, with Flacco and Tito in front. Heatedly spoken, rapid fire Spanish was pouring off the two of them.
“Hippie, it’s ok. You guys workout here. No problem.” Flacco says to me as he turns around to wave his people away. ‘Thank fucking God.’ I think to myself.
Then Larado, a short thirty five year old Piasa, comes shooting around Flacco and gets in Lumpy’s face. “Oh yeah. Fuck you bitch!” He says with a knife in his right hand, hidden behind his back. Flacco immediately jumps in between the two and starts to push Larado away.
“What?” Lumpy says lividly and shoves Flacco out of the way. Before anything else could be said, Lumpy knocked Larado clean out with a vicious right hook. That’s when the fiesta started….and Chuck slipped on his running shoes and exited stage left.
The Mexicans swarmed all over Lumpy. Jumping on his back and grabbing his arms and legs. It was like a colony of ants trying to move a fucking Big Mac. They were trying to hold him in place while another one, Raza, came running. He had a tub of boiling olive oil, water, and spaghetti that they yanked out of the microwave when this all started. In fact, the ones that didn’t have knives all filled up cups with boiling water to scald us with! I shot out of the corner swinging at everything that wasn’t white. Forcing my way through the most savage mosh pit I’ve ever been involved with in my life. There was no way I was going to let Raza get that cocktail off.
The first pain came from my left side. It felt like napalm was ripping open my ribs. I turned to see Chapas pulling the crude piece of steel out of me. The sharpened eight inch piece of metal made a direct hit on my lower left rib cage. If it had been an inch lower it would’ve been ‘game over’ for my spleen.
I caught Chapas with a quick right hook that left the twenty five your old Piasa stunned. Just as I was throwing my left, I saw another shiv coming at my head. Reactively I threw my left arm up to block the strike. Kiki, a player on my own soccer team. lodged his blade into my forearm just below the elbow. “Ahhh.” I yelled. It was a scream of anger more than pain. People that I’ve known for years, that I considered friends, were now trying to kill me. Before I could do anything, Chapas plunged his blood slicked knife into my back. I spun and hit Chapas with my right elbow. Then fired off on Kiki with the same right. Everything was happening so fast, yet time seemed to stand still. I could see Raza lifting up the tub to throw it on Lumpy when I caught him with a left hook. The seething mixture slipped from his grasp and gushed out onto Lumpy’s right foot and across the floor. I hit Raza with a right, square in the jaw. It dazed him and I was going in for the kill when Kiki drove his steel into my left arm. The pain was crippling as it tore through my muscles. But there’s no time to stop and cry about it. The one thing that you absolutely, positively must do when you’re involved in a prison riot is to keep moving. The same thing that’ll happen to a shark will happen to you….if you stop moving, you will die.
I turned and hit Kiki with every ounce of energy left in my body. The punishing shot to his nose sent him crashing into the wall. Then I hit him with the equalizer. A vicious kick to the stomach that would stop a fucking thoroughbred dead in its tracks. The boot to the solar plexus took the life right out of him. Unfortunately, it also took me right off my feet as I slipped on the misfired brew all over the floor. Which leads us to the second thing you have to do in a riot…never fall down! You might as well paint a bull’s eye on yourself if you go down. Which for me, ended up being directly in the middle of my back. The first puncture went to the left of my spine. Which was followed up by another gouge directly to the right of it. A boot kicked me savagely in the face as another one stomped me in the ribs. I felt like the pilot of the Hindenburg as it was going down in flames. The only thought you have is ‘ah fuck’ as your life is ending right in front of you.
Two more boots rocked me on the back of my head as another knife ripped through my back. Then another stomp to the ribs that took the breath out of me. Fucked is what I was.
There’s only two serious rules to live by in a major prison riot, and here I am not doing either. But shit, it’s not like I came to prison for following the rules in the first place.
So here I am lying face down on the floor, beat to shit, out of breath and leaking holes from the crudely sharpened metal slabs giving me unwanted breathing holes, when I saw one of the Mexicans go flying past me.
Mike, a 5’10 180 lb. kid from Boston came flying out of the woodwork to save me. He was in his cell when everything was going on. All he heard was a bunch of thuds and screams and came out to see what was going on. What he saw was Lumpy and I getting slaughtered by a rac-o-Mexicans. Without any hesitation Mike came shooting up the stairs and into the flames. Throwing punches and taking stab wounds, he made his way to me as a Piasa was driving his blade into my back for the fifth time. Mike kicked Juanito in the back of the head as he was crouched over me, pulling out his blood coated knife. The blow shot Juanito face first into the unforgiving pavement.
Bobby, who was standing back against the wall, pulling people out of the melee, quickly yanked me up to my feet and out of the line of fire.
It took me a second to catch my breath. I turned around to shoot back into the chaos when Bobby grabbed me and pulled me towards our cell. “Come on man. The cops.” I heard Bobby say faintly while still in a daze.
He was pointing down at the goon squad running through the doors with pepper ball and bean bag guns in their hands. I stood there for a moment, watching as all the Piasa’s scattered in fear of getting shot by the C/O’s equalizers. My mind was starting to refocus and actually comprehend what in the hell just happened.
“Dude. Cops!” I heard Bobby say louder this time as my head snapped back to reality. “Oh fuck.” I said as I took off behind Bobby towards our cell.
“Holy shit.” I said while pulling off my shirt inside our enclosure. “Those motherfuckers stabbed me.”
“Are you alright?” Bobby asked.
“Fuck…I think so.” I said uncertainly while I was checking to see everywhere I was hit.
Bobby ran back out of the cell to check on Lumpy and Mike. By the time he got out to them, the cops were all over them. Lumpy dropped at the top of the stairs. Blood was literally shooting out of his side from a puncture wound to his spleen. Mike made it down the stairs before he dropped down to his knees, gasping for breath. His left lung collapsed by a vicious stab wound from Kiki, who hit him right after he kicked Juanito off of me.
Bobby came running back into our cell as I was grabbing the Vaseline out of my locker. “Dude, put this shit on the hits.” I said tossing him the jar.
“I don’t know if it’s gonna work. You’re leaking pretty bad.”
“Fuck it.” I said wiping my arm and side with a wet rag. “We gotta stop the bleeding or I’m fucked.”
“Alright.” He said acceptingly and started to smear my back with a glob of the sticky goo.
I knew the cops would be at our cell in no time to lock the door. If I was dripping blood, there’s no way I’d avoid going to the hole. If there’s anything worse than getting stabbed up, it’s getting hit and then having to go to jail on top of it. If I could just get past the first wave of checks I’d be alright. Have someone stitch me up with floss and live to fight another day. The cops would rewind the cameras and do interviews. Something this big doesn’t just get swept under the rug. It’s Defcon 1 to the administration when two different races go to war with each other inside the prison. I’m sure I’d get locked up at that point. But by then everyone has their stories straight.
Messages will have gotten to the shot callers of the compound and whatever needs to happen will already be in motion. Plus, it gives you a chance to get your shit in order before you go back to the box for what could be a very long time.
“Is it working?” I asked in a panic “Um….a little.” Bobby said unconvincingly.
“Motherfucker, glob that shit on there.”
“Dude, I am.”
“Fuck!” I yelled. These fucking motherfuckers.” That’s when the door locked and we turned to see the C/O staring in the cell window.
Bobby was blocking his view, so he couldn’t see me. But he knew something was up.
I turned so my right side was facing him. It was the only part of my body not oozing out life’s motor oil.
“Turn around.” The C/O said, spinning his finger, while he looked directly at me. Bobby lifted up his shirt and started to spin around in a last ditch effort to save me. “Not you.” He said to Bobby. “You.” He said staring and pointing at me.
I turned my chest towards him and then right back to how I was standing. “Turn all the way around.” He said sternly. “Fuck.” I mumbled under my breath as I spun around.
“We got one here!” The C/O yelled wide-eyed. “No, no. I’m cool man.” I said trying to ease him out of panic mode. “Just keep walking.”
“We got one in here!” He yelled again. “Dude, I’m cool. Just keeping walking.” I said again in a failed Jedi mind trick on the schlub.
“Cuff up.” The Lieutenant yelled as the slot in my door opened. I knew it was over.
The plethora of armed guards standing outside my door allowed no illusion of escape from the present state of affairs. “Make sure you get a hold of my sister and let her know I’m alright.” I said to Bobby as I turned around and put my hands through the opening. “I got you bro.” He said as they opened the door and pulled me out of the cell. Making sure their guns were trained on me in case I decided to go kamikaze on them in a last ditched effort to…ah, who the hell knows what for.
They paraded me off the compound with a cop on each arm and a swarm behind me. My hands cuffed tightly behind my back, and blood still dripping off of my body. I could feel all the eyes looking out of their windows at me as I was marched down to headquarters for my impending interrogation and trip to the box. The whole compound was locked down by this time. So, the fortunate ones with a view of the compound got to see Lumpy and Mike wheeled out on stretchers. Close behind were some handcuffed Mexicans, and then yours truly. The only thing for them to think at that point is to get out their knives and be ready to rock once the doors opened. Because who the hell knows what’s going to come at you.
Once I got inside the lieutenant’s office I was placed in a holding cage the size of a shower. My handcuffs were taken off, and I sat down on the fashioned concrete bench.
“What happened?” The lieutenant barked at me.
“I don’t know.” I said.
“Who did this to you?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know.” He said incredulously.
“No clue.” I said looking at him like he was retarded.
No matter what, you never give the cops anything. They’ll figure out what happened from all their rats. Whatever’s gonna happen, is gonna happen anyway. You don’t talk to the cops on the street, and that doesn’t change once you come to the pen.
“Stand up for a body check.” He barked again, giving up on his inquisition. I stood up and held out my hands, showing my knuckles. “Swollen knuckles huh.” He said with a smirk. “Let me see your arm.”
I turned and showed him my left arm and side. “You’ve got two puncture wounds on your arm and one on your ribs.” He said shaking his head. “And you don’t know who did this to you?”
“Nope.” I said mockingly.
“Turn around.” He said spinning his finger.
“Alright.” I said in a kind of ‘if you liked those you’re gonna love this.’ tone as I spun around. “Ah shit.” He said grabbing his radio and calling for medical.
“We’ve got another one we have to get to the hospital with numerous stab wounds.” He turned and shot out of the office to get everything ready to rush me to the hospital.
There were two holding cages in the lieutenant’s office. Directly across from me was a Piasa kid named Oscar from Colombia. We both shook our heads to say ‘what’s up’ to each other.
“I guess we aren’t gonna be playing our game today then, huh Hippie.” He said with a laugh.
“Shit, you’re fucking lucky we aren’t. We were gonna smoke your ass today.” I said.
“Yeah, yeah. Fuck you.” He said back. I’ve known Oscar for a couple years. He grew up in New York City running coke for the cartels. He ran with the Piasa’s in prison because they have more numbers than any other Spanish gang. We’d always bet each other and talk shit whenever our teams would play. Today would’ve been no different.
“You alright?” He asked.
“Man, what the fuck, Hippie.” He said in disbelief of what happened.
“I don’t fucking know.” I uttered in agreement.
“I guess that’s prison.” He said sliding down on his bench, staring at the floor depressed.
“Yeah, that’s prison.” I said, sitting back down, as I waited for a ride towards my first taste of civilization in almost eleven years.