Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Medium Maximum Part II

When I was originally arrested, nearly fifteen years before, there was no statute of limitations on drug offenses in Indiana and you didn’t get time off for good behavior either. There is still no statute of limitations, but you do get time off. Still and all, I’d be looking at a decade or better in lockup. Years later, during the time I was in the Matrix and LBJ, I had no clue that I would be free today. I thought I was in for the long haul.
That first night in Lower Buckeye Jail there was a ruckus just after lights out. Two guards came on the POD and entered a cell about three down from mine. I could hear a fight going on and then they hauled a man out by one arm and one leg. He wasn’t moving. I fell asleep wondering what he did to make them come in and beat him in his bed and drag him away. I thought about all that hooch in our cell.
Next morning, the Woodhead asked me to walk the floor with him. He reeked of Corn Nuts and Coco Butter. He explained he liked to get to know his men and asked what I was in for. I told him “Freeing minds”.
. “I read your booking sheet” he chuckled. “Fourteen years, Jesus, and you didn’t get into any trouble in all that time”?
“Not really, I had a few close calls”.
“Why’d you give up? Just get tired of running”?
“Pretty much, I haven’t seen my daughter in nearly ten years”.
“They should just let you go”.
“I agree, but I’m not counting on it. Muncie Indiana’s a whole different world”.
We talked about the politics of the POD, how the three Heads weren’t rival factions but institutions who worked together to keep things running smoothly. He explained to me what I could expect from him and informed me of my responsibilities; protocol, contingencies in the event of trouble, and the proper method of addressing grievances against the guards or inmates. The DOC was responsible for providing me with certain documents and processes vital to my case, The Woodhead facilitated these processes. Whatever I required of my captors, I was to request in writing and submit to him after morning chow.
Internally, any loan between inmates required his consent and was only approved within the races. I could give something to a Bro or Piso, but not extend credit. Only the heads could extend credit, they kept current copies of everybody’s commissary forms.I could make direct purchases from anybody, but only with approval. Gambling was done by writing a personal note for the money and showing proof that amount was covered in the commissary account. To play poker, chips were purchased that were squares torn from worn decks of cards. Woodhead had a lieutenant who was never out of arms reach. He carried the books and kept the chips, neatly stacked and held together with rubber bands.
The Heads were allowed such authority because they also acted as enforcer for the guards. There were rules we could break, within the established protocol and performance guidelines, and rules we couldn’t. We didn’t want the guards coming on the floor to bust people and they didn’t either. There is always the potential for things to get out of hand. Each Head had soldiers who acted at his request, and stopped any infraction that wasn’t allowed or wasn’t executed properly.
What appeared to me, at first, to be an example of extreme racism and segregation was actually a pretty effective form of jailhouse government. The guards gave the Heads authority because they maintained control. We gave the Heads authority because they were fair and beneficent mediators. They took care of us. They kept their position by appeasing people on both sides of the cage.
I asked about the guy they removed the night before and the Woodhead said “That was unfortunate”. The guy was wearing a cross he had made from threads pulled out of blankets and clothing. He went to sleep without tucking it in and the guards saw it. If the guy would have been caught with the necklace before lockdown, the Woodhead would have been told and he would have handled it. Roger had let his bling show, and it wasn’t the first time, so he had to do a couple days in solitary. When he returned, the whole POD rose and applauded. It’s a ritual of welcome and acceptance to give a man food, candy, and sodas when returning from the hole. It helps his attitude and builds community.
I saw several examples of this crocheted jailhouse jewelry. The multi colored designs were intricately knotted and beautifully made. The hippies could learn a thing or two from these felons.
I got so sick of the smell of Corn Nuts and Coco Butter. The whole joint reeked. To this day I can’t stand either. If I went to the beach, I’d probably throw up.

No comments:

Post a Comment