Featured Story, Prison Stories

Life Inside Victim-ville by Lanard Miller

victorvilleI sat on the plane on my way to Victorville, a federal correctional complex in southern California. As I sat on the plane looking out the window, we flew over mountains and deserts just to get to the institution. When we landed we were instructed to leave the window curtains closed because if we opened them up it would get over one hundred degrees on the plane.

It was the middle of August when we arrived and this was the hottest time of the year in Victorville. When I say hot, it was hot. Dry heat that made one hundred degrees feels like one million. It was like stepping into a furnace, a hellhole on earth. This was the first time I felt the high desert heat. I had heard people use the term, but the real life experience was something altogether different.

We were escorted off the plane and onto a bus that drove us to the facility. Since Victorville was next to an old military base we drove through some military style barracks. The neighborhood looked like something out of the movies with blasted woods everywhere. It looked like a bomb or a draught hit the area, it was a crazy sight.

“Welcome to Victim-Villa,” was what you heard as soon as you stepped off the bus and onto the compound. I arrived at Victorville not knowing what I was heading into. I had been in the system but I didn’t know that Victorville was a disciplinary facility. It was a complex, which meant that it had a penitentiary, two mediums, a one and a two, and a women’s camp.

I didn’t know that a riot had just occurred right before I got there that left over fifty blacks injured. I was walking into a danger zone. They were sending blacks from all over the United States out there because they had just transferred over five hundred inmates out due to the riot.

California was a place where racial jailhouse agendas were crazy. It was all about politics. In Cali, it wasn’t gang versus gang or state versus state like other areas, it was race against race. On the compound, there were eighteen hundred inmates total. One thousand Mexicans, five hundred blacks, two hundred whites, and one hundred other races. And basically it was every race against blacks. So that made it fifteen hundred against five hundred.

Razor wire fenceFive hundred was a lot and that was because before the first riot there was only about one hundred blacks and they got slaughtered by the Mexicans. It was said that they chased the blacks straight over the razor wire fences. It was either get stabbed or take a chance with the razor wire fence, a lose, lose situation. Some blacks got stabbed and stumped, it was an ugly affair. And the blacks were on the losing end.

The majority of the staff was Mexican also, including the administration, the Warden and all. And these people catered to their race. It was a prison set up for Mexicans. I’d never seen racism this bad in my life, it was like slavery times.

During the riot, an officer had locked the blacks in a closed off area, where one or two blacks were isolated with ten Mexicans. You already know what happened to these black dudes, if you don’t I’m going to tell you. They got punished.

And the staff condoned and sanctioned it. The riot started when a black dude from the south had a disagreement with a Mexican. He felt like the Mexican disrespected him and he wanted a one on one, which was something that wasn’t ever going to happen. The Mexicans told him to leave it alone but he insisted on making a big deal over the situation, so they told him to come out at six o’clock that night.

He had no idea that this was the time and day that all the Mexicans met up. So like a dumb ass he showed up expecting the one on one. But the Mexicans didn’t get down like that. As soon as he stepped over to their area they all pulled out knives The Mexicans kept knives stashed everywhere on the yard. This idiot didn’t even let his people know what he was doing, he just went out there. Leaving the already out numbered blacks in the dark and that cost them, dearly. They tried to help their comrade but it went badly.

There were about six hundred Mexicans against about sixty blacks and they slaughtered them. Due to this the administration felt that they needed to bring more blacks on the compound, to even out the numbers, which is how I ended up out there.

When you first get there the inmates ask you where you were from and then place you with your people. Everything was sectioned off and segregated. My people let me know what type of environment I was in and they gave me a knife and told me to keep it with me at all times because it could go down at any minute.

I stepped in the unit and saw the segregation off the rip. The blacks had a TV, the Mexicans had a TV, the whites had a TV, and the Asians had a TV. You didn’t touch other race’s TV, it was a respect thing.

They showed me where my cell was and when I got there I saw that it was a three man cell. My first thought was I won’t be in here for long. But what I didn’t know was the counselors were taking all the blacks cells and giving them to the Mexicans.

One thing that we didn’t do was mix races, a black person couldn’t live in the cell with a Mexican. So somebody had to go and more than likely it was the black that was going to go. There were more of us but the Mexicans had the numbers advantage.

A couple of hours after my arrival we were called to the chow hall where the food was served. When I walked in the chow hall I saw the Mexicans on one side, the whites on one side, the Asians on one side, and the blacks on one side. While I was walking through the food line I saw two tables where there were some men with lipstick on their lips, feminine hair styles, and some of them had tits like women. That shit was crazy. They had chicks with dicks in this joint.

The gay men basically ran all the drugs in the jail. Simply because majority of the inmates had sex with them and gave them anything they wanted. Even the staff and the officers had sexual relationships with these homosexuals. It was out of control. The staff gave the homosexuals what they wanted also. They had everything from mascara, to cell phones, to MP3 players, to tobacco, to alcohol all the contraband ran through them.

The different groups had homosexuals that belonged to them only. The Mexican homosexuals couldn’t get caught with another race, the same for the black homosexuals, and the whites. Every now and then you will see a punk with a black eye and you would already know what happened. The races went hard to protect their gumps. It would be do or die time if a black got caught messing with a gump from another race and vice versa.

Homosexuals were forbidden for the gang members and the Muslims. If anyone affiliated with a gang or that was governed by the Sunni Muslim community got caught having sex with a homosexual they’d be on the first thing smoking to the SHU or sent up top. Being sent up top is when your car (group you were affiliated with) makes you check in the hole under P.C.

chowhallAfter I left the chow hall I went to the unit and at six o’clock outside yard was called, but I was told I couldn’t go because the yard was split up, which was when they let one half of the jail outside for an hour and then they let the other half go out afterwards. This was another result of the riot. The compound was in fact, separated into two parts for activities.

The administration knew that the other races were outnumbered by the Mexicans. So they tried to minimize the number of people on the yard at one time. They thought that this would keep the violence more isolated. But this really did nothing but made time harder to do in Victorville for inmates. In fact this turned the tension up times two.

We stayed on lockdown. If somebody moved the wrong way we were placed on lockdown. Lockdown was when there was no inmate movement. We were put in our cells for twenty-four hours a day, only coming out to shower once a week. It was the same as being in the hole.

We were feed like animals. No hot food, only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They gave us small boxes with peanut butter and jelly, a Kool-Aid, and a small bag of chips. This was lunch and dinner for grown men. For breakfast it was a kid sized box of cereal, milk, and one piece of fruit. We were in there starving.

If you were indigent, which was the majority of the population, you were hit. There were cellies fighting each other over food. A man’s cellie would eat in his face every night and he would start something with him, but all the time it was because he was jealous of him having something to eat and he was starving.

Then you had the guys that were doing life sentences that didn’t care about nothing. They would take off on a Mexican or anybody just because, and we all would go on lockdown. Any racial conflict and it was an automatic lockdown. Then the SIS lieutenant would pull the shotcallers (representatives for each group) to his office and feel the situation out before we were let off lockdown. This process would take months at a time.

On time on lockdown the officers searched the cells and took all our property from us, everything. We knew this was illegal, but what can we do, they carried us big time at Victorville. Sometimes we would be on lockdown for a month, come off for a day and then go right back on for another month.

Then you had people like me who just couldn’t take it anymore. We had to wait eighteen months, incident report free, before we could transfer. This was devastating to a lot of us. And then when it finally came time to transfer, the case manager would put a management variable on you. This meant that you couldn’t transfer. It was a way to hold you there. Sometimes it would take three years for a management variable to come off.

You had people checking in (going to the hole) just to get away from that place. In order to check in you had to say that you feared for your life on the compound and they would put you under investigation in the SHU, Special Housing Unit, for up to a year, sometimes longer just for a transfer. Some people sat in the hole for nine months just to get transferred, then they would get transferred right across the street and have to start the process all over. Either go on the compound and stay shot free for eighteen months or sit in the hole for nine more months. You know how they felt.

Victorville was one of the worst, if not the worst situations I’ve been in. That ain’t no joke, you could lose your life or your sanity any seconds. But I came out clean. I held my own, kept my dignity and respect and made it out of that hellhole. So when you think your situation is bad, just look on the bright side, you could be in Victim-Ville, with a bunch of Mexicans who want nothing more than to stick a shank in your neck.