Featured Story, Prison Gangs

The Intangibles of Prison Etiquette by Judge Broman

There are things that we do in prison that take some time to get use too. The intangibles of prison etiquette is very distinct. Little habits or quirks that don’t make all that much sense when you first come inside. But eventually over the years they become as ingrained in your routine as breathing. Or, your eyes get opened REAL quick another way.

Your NEVER spit toothpaste in the sink for one. You always sit with your back against a wall. You always walk to the shower in your boots, and when you’re there, you ALWAYS have someone standing outside.

It took me awhile to get use to most of these things. I started out my bid in a medium security prison where acts of violence were few and far between everyday routines.

My celly would look at me crazy when I’d spit my toothpaste in the sink after I got done brushing my teeth. Finally I just got to the point of not wanting to feel the eyes burning into my back, so that broke me of that habit.

Watching TV, I would sit wherever I damn well pleased. Ignorantly blissful with my headphones blasting and feet kicked up on a chair. Prison be damned, the Steelers are playing and nothing else comes even remotely close to carrying my interest.

That custom dissipated immediately after I saw someone get a hot iron broken over his skull and THEN beat to a pulp with a lock on a belt while he was in never never land immersed in rap videos.

From that day on it’s been only one earphone over my ear and the back of my chair firmly pasted against the nearest wall. My periphery vision soaking up any would be assassins long before they could strike.

For the shower thing, it took me coming to the penitentiary before I fully embraced this grandstanding.

I could appreciate the comings and goings to the bathing area in some other form of footwear other then flip-flops. [Although I pretty much went everywhere barefoot on the street and sandals were a step up in wardrobe.]

My rationing that something could happen on my walk to and fro, so better to be prepared just in case. But also thinking if something does happen while I’m in the shower, there’s no way to get some clothes on and THEN put on my boots. Whatever little skirmish would surely be thwarted by the CO’s by that point. So in essence, what’s the use? But I still went along with the ritual, no reason to rock the boat. But to have someone standing outside the shower as I washed seemed to go to far.

A lot of the gangs are known to always have a “spotter” for each other as they shower. Most notable the Latin Kings and the rest of the Midwest Four. [Folks, Gangster Disciples, and the Vice Lords.] Everybody else pretty much just did their own thing.

I took out of this that the Midwest Four had to of been or done some scandalous shit that they had to be scared to even take a shower! But hey, they signed up to be in a gang, so that’s on them. I was far removed from dealings with any of them, so in my eyes, shower freely.

Over eight years into my time I stayed this way. I thought that I’d seen it all. I’d been a spectator to multiple murders, an uncountable number of stabbings, and one glorious riot to traumatize my tree hugging mind. Then I witnessed what would break me of my solitary shower time.

The Nortenos are a Mexican gang from Northern California, although their numbers aren’t as large as their nemesis the Surenos from Southern California, they’re known widely for their ferociousness. They weren’t the biggest gang on the yard, but they also weren’t the smallest either. That honor was bestowed upon the Border Brothers.


The Brothers are another Mexican gang mostly from Arizona, with some factions in California and New Mexico. They’re predominantly from Mexico and other Central American countries and have come to the United States illegally. Since their numbers are usually fairly small, they try not to have any beefs with bigger gangs.

The hit was put out for 6pm in all the units. The Nortenos were taking the Border Brothers off the yard. Who knows what the reason was, or if there even was one, most of these things come from one person not liking another and then all hell breaks loose. Which was exactly what was going to happen.

You could feel the tension in the air. You always can in a penitentiary, but it’s more of a matter of if it’s you that’s about to get the savagery released on. If it’s not, then you’re there to watch the show.

Apparently Chewco, a BB from Tijuana wasn’t interested in the entertainment when he stepped into the shower at five minutes to six. His celly Vaca the only other BB in the unit, from Mexico City, must of felt the same way. As he sat in his cell oblivious to the misfortune heading his way.

As soon as it struck 6pm, and not a second later, the assault was on.

Three Nortenos stormed the cell on Vaca, knives blazing, as another Northerner held the door shut. All you could hear was the muffled screams as the life was getting sucked from the Chicanos body.

At the same time two Nortenos rushed the shower on Chewco. Ripping open the curtain and blitzing the soaped up paisano, each armed with a hellish bone crusher in hand.

There was nothing muted in the scream that followed Chewco’s offensive. It sounded straight out of a Friday the 13th movie when a girl is running from Jason. He let out such a high pitched shriek that even the two assailants were taken aback, giving him a split second to shoot past them and make a break for it.

All 5 foot 3, 150 lbs. of a butt naked, wet, soapy, and bloody Chewco went tearing out of the shower and down the tier. He was like a thoroughbred shooting out of the gate. His accosters left eating his dust as they pursed him. It looked for sure that Chewco would get away fairly unscathed, until he slipped at the top of the stairs.

It was like the rug got pulled right out from under him. His whole body damn near horizontal in the air before he came crashing down in-between the steel steps. All the air immediately deflated from his lungs, he was motionless.

The two Northerners were on him in the blink of an eye. One kicking him in the head as the other rammed his knife into Chewco’s exposed body. Without any clothes to impede the blade, it was like cutting through butter. Every time he pulled out his knife, blood would come gushing along side it.

We watched in horror as a lifeless Chewco was brutalized by the unrelenting Nortenos. The only thing that saved the little paisano was the wave of CO’s blasting into the unit with their pepper ball guns and mace.

Everyone hit the ground as the vicious little green balls shot around the unit indiscriminately through the noxious fog. Laying there with my shirt pulled over my face I coughed out to my boy Seth “Next time I take a shower, your ass better be suited and booted in front of that motherfucker!”