Imagine what it's like dealing with them on the other side of the law.
So, after having served six months in boot camp and nine more months out of thirteen in the halfway house, I violated and was sent back to jail. Great.
The story of how I ended up cuffed by the marshals and dragged to MDC Brooklyn is for another post. Surprisingly, the marshals were actually really nice. They tried to make small conversation, asked why I violated, but since I still had hope to fight the accusations, I wasn't very talkative.
The worst part of jail is the commuting. Being processed into new facilities, strip searched, locked in a cell all by yourself (or maybe with a couple other people), took HOURS.
It fucking sucked.
But I'll fast-forward all that boring shit.
MDC Brooklyn. A super-max. It's a holdover facility, usually meant for people on pretrial who didn't make bail, or people in transit who haven't been assigned to a real prison yet. What this means is, there's no differentiation in security here. What this means is, murderers, rapists, molesters, white-collar crimes, drug related offenses, armed robbers, all of these people are together.
MDC consists of multiple units, two per floor I believe, and each unit has two levels of cells, totaling maybe a couple hundred inmates. There's a "handball court" with an opening at the top for fresh air, a row of shower stalls, a few tables spread out, four TVs that you tune into with Walkmans.
I met my new cell mate, some 60+ year old Mafia guy. He used to be a bookie, but he was charged with three murders.
Wow. I had never met anyone face to face who had killed another person. It was weird. Scary to think that I was sharing thirtyish square feet with him.
But what he killed me with wasn't what I expected of a mob bookie with three bodies on his jacket. I mentioned he was over 60 right? And we all know that past a certain age controlling your bowels can be challenging.
So here's the approximate breakdown of a typical day at MDC. Doors open to your cell around 6:00 AM or 7:00 AM (I'm not sure, I sure as hell wasn't up at that time). Lunch is served at 11:00 AM, dinner's at 5:30ish PM, and in between those times, they count us every few hours, locking us in our cells, this can last from 30mns to 1.5 hours. What did this depend on? No clue.
And at 11:00 PM, they locked us in our cells until morning time. A tiny cell, one bunk bed, one metal "dresser," a small table attached to the wall with an also attached stool, a sink and a toilet.
So lights are out. Door is locked. Within five minutes, my cellie is apologizing.
"Sorry bunkie, but when you gotta go, you gotta go."
What is anyone to say? He's right, if you gotta go you gotta go. And boy did he gotta go. The stench, the wet sounds, the... ew nevermind I'll
Have you ever tried to fall asleep with that stench? Can you imagine going to bed in a public bathroom? Don't try, it's obviously not pleasant.
Anyhow, during the rest of my time there, I read (a lot), played chess (a lot), played cards (even more). I met this asian guy Mike, part of the original Flying Dragons (FD, an asian gang), he was in for thirteen murders, and was wrapping up an eleven year bid. He was the only other asian person there, and if there's one thing you do in jail is stick with your own color. Doesn't really matter who they are or what they've done, because hey, who are we kidding, we're not going to find any saints in there.
People take care of their own, and when you're put into a situation where you have nothing and no one, you revert back to very primitive ways of distinguishing your own from others, namely race.
He seemed like a nice enough guy. After eleven years in jail though he was worried about rehabilitating himself to the real world. The internet, how to pick up girls, etc, he felt completely lost, like a newborn. I didn't quite know what to tell him, I didn't know how to bring him up to speed from such a situation. Talking to him reminded me of Red and Brooks from Shawshank Redemption, who both became institutionalized.
I also think I came very close to dying (or getting the living shit beat out of me at least). This giant of a Puerto Rican guy, mentally unstable, but built like a mountain, for some reason got mad at me. I don't even remember why.
We were playing cards, Casino to be exact, and I've played with him many times before. Him and this other younger Hispanic kid. The younger one was one of those very talkative, tries to be suave kinda guy, slightly cocky, but funny and good-natured enough to be tolerated. Seems like I found one of those in every facility I went to.
The giant however was much older. Graying hair, thick glasses, 45ish, with a neck thicker than a tree trunk. I really don't remember what happened, but something pissed him off. Something I said.
"What, you wanna go? You wanna throw down?"
I stared right back into his eyes, and my mind drew a blank. What do you do when confronted with this situation in jail?
On the streets there's no question really. But in jail, it's a completely different story. There are only so many possible outcomes to this:
- I fuck him up, get sent to solitary, get my security raised, and good time is deducted
- He fucks me up, and I still suffer all the consequences from possibility #1
- I back down and I'm branded the unit bitch until... I don't want to think that far ahead
- Death for one or the other
"Nah man, I'm tryna go home, but if it comes down to it, I'll go," I replied.
That was my bullshit way of trying to talk my way out of it. I backed down without really backing down, basically meaning I didn't do or say jack shit. Well, I didn't do jack shit but infuriate him even more.
The younger kid luckily squashed the whole thing. He pulled him away, saying it was just a misunderstanding, that everything was cool. We actually kept on playing Casino right afterwards lol.
The guy was obviously mentally unstable. I have no idea what he was in for, neither did I want to know. I still played cards with him from there on out, but I was very cautious.
This other guy in there, this lanky white guy who did time in state prisons as well, had chunks of metal embedded in his body in various places. Now I'm talking about huge chunks of shanks that he got stabbed with, and doctors were not able to extract from him. It looked unreal. He could just pull a chunk, stretching his skin as far as it could go, and boing it'd snap right back into his arm.
Cigarettes went for $10 each, $200 a pack. People who went to court didn't even wear socks so they could slip off their shoes and pick up cigarette butts on the street with their toes.
And that was that. Six weeks here literally felt like six months. It was the worst time of the entire seven year ordeal I went through since my arrest until the day I was done with probation. MDC was by far, the most horrid experience of the entire stretch.
Letters and phone calls help you get through the days, listening to that stupid smug female recording over and over:
"This call is from a federal prison. This is a prepaid call. You will not be charged for this call. This call is from: [insert my name here]. To accept, please press five. To decline all future calls from this person, please press seven, seven."
As much as I hated hearing this recording, I also loved it. It meant that whoever I called picked up. What sucked was that I only had fifteen minutes at a time to talk.
And I would also like to thank all the people who were there for me to write to, and call, even though a lot of those people I had just met, and had very little incentive to keep correspondence with an inmate. One person in particular, I had never even met lol.
Disappointingly but not surprisingly, Lisa was the hardest to get a hold of. We were broken up by this time, but I guess I still thought she'd be more available for me to call or write. She wrote one letter during this stretch. One letter in ten months. Oh well.
But I never thought I'd be happy to hear that I was going to be sent to a prison facility. But when I heard that I was being transferred to Allenwood, PA, I was ecstatic. That meant no more MDC. I'd miss the cheap phone calls (since it was local calls, it was about 1/3 of the price from PA), but a gym, facility, better food, cubes instead of cells, everything else would be better in Allenwood.
And it was. Especially when June 2005 came along.