Journey through the Justice System by D. G.
I remember the day when my trip through the justice system “officially” began. The memory of this day is embedded in my soul very deep, so deep it seems as if I might never feel entirely “free” because of it!
GARZA EAST was the name of the unit located in Beeville TX. Throughout the years inmates had named it “El Gallinero” (the chicken coop). I assumed they called it this because the windows had chicken wire. Even though I had been “schooled” about this place and had an idea on what to expect, it still made an impression on me. I mean we were literally “cooped” up like chickens. I went through the whole new prisoners initiation process; the shaving of the head, the physical, the logging of the tattoos amongst other data collection.
After I was processed I got assigned a bunk. I arrived at my cellblock and immediately went to my bed. It was a top one. Of course the bottom one was taken. The guy was laying there looking up at me as I set up my stuff. He simply nodded. I did the same. I noticed a tattoo on his right arm. It was the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes cartoons. I jumped up onto my bunk and laid there looking up at the ceiling. Thinking what the hell had I gotten myself into.
Three days later my bunkie packed up his things and got moved. We had exchanged very few words during that period. Mainly just “hey” and “morning”. Really I hadn’t exchanged many words with anybody else but the guards. Being that it was my first stint, I was mainly “scoping” out how things rolled in there. This went on for the next three weeks until my name was called out and I was told to pack up my stuff.
“Transfer”, said the guard.
Ok then. The next chapter of this new dangerous adventure I found myself in had begun.
We were led through the same corridor we came in through when I first arrived, except now we were going the opposite direction. As I passed by the chicken coop style fenced cells I looked inside. I remembered noting how spot on “El Gallinero” fit this place. Some guys were just sitting on their bunks, SCARED as shit. Some walking back and forth, others were “wandering” aimlessly (like fucking chickens) around the cell. A whole other world was how I would describe this place as I walked out of the building.
We were taken to some cages located closer to the outer fence. I walked into the cage and noticed there was still an open spot on the bench at the far corner so I walked over and sat down. As I sat I turned to look at who was sitting there. To my surprise, it was the guy with the Tasmanian Devil tattoo.
“Hey”, he said.
“Que uvole”, I replied.
” Kind of crazy how we somehow ended up next to each other again huh?” he asked.
“Yes it is”, I said.
So the conversation continued from that point on. We had to wait for the bus anyways, so why not spend the time talking. I hadn’t done much of it and it was something I had always liked to do. So we talked about what/who we had out in the “free” world and the mistake we made that landed us in there and just a bunch of more small talk. The bus finally arrived. We got handcuffed together which meant we were to share the same seat. I noticed we were the only ones that happened to. We were all seated, the guard headed one last time to the back of the bus, came back, shut the gate and off we went. Destination: GARZA WEST. Just across the street.
We were taken into the building through some corridors and into some holding cells. The small talk continued with Tasmanian devil tattoo guy. Slowly we were all called out one by one, assigned a bunk and aligned along the wall. My name got called out first. I don’t recall extending my hand to shake his nor asked his name. But I do remember telling him “Nice to meet you”. And that I hoped his time spent in the system wasn’t that bad. He wished the same for me. I walked out of the cell.
3B-47 was the number on the paper handed to me along with my I.D. That meant I was to go to building three, cell block B, bunk number 47. “Great! Another top bunk”, I remember thinking to myself. The I.D. showed my face, of course, my bald head, which I had never contemplated happening, along with my new identification number. My name was also on there but that didn’t matter because all we were to the system was a number. The number written on that I.D. card 1065978. I remember the guards saying it repeatedly, “Memorize the number on that card. Because that’s all you are in here!” So I did and haven’t remembered to forget it.
So after we were all aligned along the wall we began to get escorted out of the building. Outside we reached the big walkway known as the “Bowling Alley”. It had yellow lines painted showing where the inmates were supposed to walk and stay within those lines. The guards began explaining where each building was located. They instructed us to head down the Bowling Alley and turn to our assigned building once we reached it. Building three was the farthest to left. Once every body got to their assigned building they began to let us in. As we stood in line I noticed Tasmanian devil tattoo guy was also in the line I was in so I asked him what cellblock he was going to through sign language. Cellblock D, he replied with the same sign language, which I learned once I got inside was diagonally across from B.
I got into the cellblock and headed straight to my assigned bunk. As I unloaded my stuff onto my bunk the one in charge of doing the initial “investigating” of “newbies”[new inmates] approached me. I was supposed to get asked several questions but this guy began with “Who do you roll with?” of course. I had been told repeatedly that was usually always the first one. After I answered that one I was told the person to talk was across the way in cellblock C. I thanked him and the welcoming committee moved on to the next newbie. I finished unloading my stuff and headed to the window to get in contact with the person in charge.
We communicated through sign language. We spelled out words making letters with our fingers eventually making sentences. Something we learned to do in County jail to avoid having to send “kites”. Not many guards could tell what we were saying. He told me his name (alias), his rank (a carnal), and what he expected from me (full commitment of course). I agreed with a nod and closed the conversation by tapping my chest twice with a closed fist and holding it out a few inches away from it. I headed back to my assigned bunk to lie down.
About an hour went by when I was told that I was being called to the window by the “carnal”. He told me something I really didn’t want to hear. At least not on my first day there. He assigned me my first task already. He already wanted to know “where I stood”. I was to drop a “Pistolero” that was in cellblock D.
“When?” I asked.
“When you go to the rec yard later”, he said.
Wow. Not much time to neither think about it nor prepare. Some guys from another organization that were in cellblock D were going to tell me who it was I had to “drop”. I was also told another youngster from that cellblock was going to show his loyalty to his organization too, so he was to “drop” the guy with me.
“Orale”, I agreed, closing my fist and tapping my chest twice with a nod.
As I headed to my bunk I asked one of the guys what time we went to the rec yard. “In a little bit”, he said. But as soon as I got to my bunk the door opened and the guard yelled out, “REC!!! Make sure to bring your identification cards.” This was so they knew who went outside. I grabbed my I.D. card and headed to the line forming by the door. I handed my card to the guard and headed outside.
Once outside, I waited by the fence to meet up with whoever was suppose to show me who I had to “handle my business” on. Everyone walked past me towards the volleyball court. Three guys stopped in front of me.
“You the TS representative?” one of them asked.
“I am. So who is he?” I replied and asked without a hesitation in my voice.
They looked at each other without really knowing what to say.
“Hey I have a task to do”. I told them quickly.
They looked back at me then back at each other and then towards the volleyball court. Their eyes searched for the victim. One of them spotted him. He pointed discreetly in the direction the guy was at.
“There he is”, he said. I looked in the direction they were all looking. One of them turned to the other youngster and told him something in a low voice. I didn’t hear what he was saying because I was still trying to take in what had just happened. I was still trying to decipher what the hell was going on in my mind. Somehow shit got twisted and it ended up hitting me straight smack in the face.
Everything that had happened since the morning meant nothing anymore. At that given moment, all I that was left for me was to forget about everything so I could focus on what I had to do. That meant I had to feel no compassion, no empathy, not much of anything really. I wanted to stare in disbelief for a little while longer but quickly disregarded that idea so as to not show any kind of weakness.
The guy had pointed to none other than Tasmanian devil tattoo guy. Everything we had talked about instantly became just words to me. Survival skills kicked in. How I was able to do it so quickly still amazes me to this day. All the things he shared with me about his family, friends, and memories of his life in the outer world had no room in my mind [nor my heart] anymore.
“Okay. You ready to do this”, I asked the other youngster. He simply nodded and we took off walking around the basketball court. We began to discuss how we were going to do this. The guy was playing volleyball with the rest of the group. We took a few turns around the court while waiting for the perfect opportunity to move in. When it came down to the last five minutes before it was time to go in opportunity struck. At that very moment his next position to play was way in back corner. So we moved in swiftly. The other guy around his right and I around his left.
The next thing I remember was looking up and around me to find no one there. The guy was on the floor. Every one was almost by the entrance ready to go in. A few stole some glances back my way. Even the youngster that was supposed to do it with me was gone. I quickly dashed to the other side of the court and walked along the fence line towards the entrance. The door opened and out came a woman guard. Everyone started to go into the sally port. I dared not look towards the center of the court. I could see with my peripheral vision his silhouette on the floor. As I reached the corner of the fence that led to the entrance the woman guard came out to the open court past the group of guys.
“Oh no. What the fuck? Don’t tell me you?” She was more like telling herself than to anyone in particular. She grabbed her radio and called it in. “CODE BLUE” she said.
I feel like there’s no need to get into the details of what I don’t remember happening. But as I sat on the benches inside the cellblock, waiting to get interviewed, I saw them hauling the guy out in a wheelchair, white uniform turned red and slumped down. I never once wondered if what was said to me about him was even true. I just blindly followed orders. And so began my [violent] journey through the criminal “justice” system.