Archive for December, 2010

The Past, The Present, The Unforseen Future! And Tale of Survival of The Mind, Soul and Body livingBehindBars!

Posted in Behind Bars in Panama, Living Behind Bars in Panama, Prison Life on December 19, 2010 by doingtimeabroad

“There are moments in one’s life….which are like frontier posts marking the completion of a period but at the same time clearly indicating a new direction. At such a moment of transition we feel compelled to view the past and the present with the eagle eye of thought in order to become concious of our real position” By Karl Max (excerpt from a letter to his father, 10 Nov 1837).

From the moment I got locked up, it felt as if my life has stopped functioning. In reality, all aspects of one’s life outside has come to a full stop. And at such moment, like Karl Max rightly said; one feels the need to take stock of his life and find out where things went wrong! That I’ve done and I believe some blunders, such as this can be so devastating that its impact is not just on my life but it comes with a sort of dominoes effect; others are affected even people who are innocent and had no idea of what I did. Thus; for every decision made and actions taken, one has to realised that the consequences be it positive or negative can directly or indirectly affect others. From the first day of my incarceration, the lots who have bothered to call or make contact were in awe! And the ones who felt more confused are my immediate family; spouse and my kids who don’t know why I’m not home. My decision was one that has cost me not just my freedom but the joy my kids should have know and security of having me around them growing. Such a bitter way to learn and take stock of one’s life!

From my little cell and behind bars, I have the opportunity to sit behind the scene and watch the wrangling in the outside world.
Fortunately, we’ve more than television to be informed! Not long ago, had access to laptop and access to the world wide web! Then had every happenings at the tip of my fingers or at the click of a button. All that ended when the transfer came. Though difficult to adjust but as human whom we are, eventually adjusted to the new life in the maximum jail (hypothetically), named La Joya (which translate in English as THE JEWEL)! Funny how they name their prison; El Renacer; The Rebirth and others with names that doesn’t befits the places! Since my coming here, there has been so many escapes and barrages of gun shots as the two goes together! All has always been within the nationals pavilions. But today, Tues, 14th of December in Pavilion 8; the second pavilion housing Foreigners. We heard gun shots and later found out that two inmates escaped! (broad daylight and under the nose of guards with shotguns and auto rifles). Something fishy smelling.
Later in the evening it came on the evening news. That two foreigners escaped. After a call to a mate in that pavilion on his cellular, he confided in me that the two were high profilers waiting for extradition to the States; thus they sorted the cops and took an august leave.
To make it look real, they had Patio today and just when it started raining, we heard the gun shots! Most inmates knew the duo were long gone! Who knows how long they’ll be on the run! If they’re big players in the league, the yanks will get interpol on them. But if not, lucky them! And because of this, we are having full lock down tomorrow as it is after an escape!
Well next day, we didn’t get lockdown but inmates where the escape took place had a full day lockdown, who get punished for an escape or attempted escape? The cops and wardens get paid, go home smiling and the escapees get their freedom, but those inmates left behind get punished! What a world! A prison’s world! Maybe next time, they should plead with any planning escape that they shouldn’t as they will be severely punished! As of this latest update Saturday 18th, Pavilion 8 inmates remained locked up as punishment for the escapes! What about the cops who got paid?

One will think of jail as a place where nobody gives a damn how he or she looks, or what phone you use. The latinos spend so much on grooming themselves and to be seen with the latest Smart phones! Many of them their lives has been in and out of jails, one will wonder if they’ve got nothing else to live for other than jail.
Was shocked when I found out some of my country fellas ain’t different, most had done time again and again! Well this one time should be enough for me as I can’t afford being away from my family for such a long period of time.

Talking of latest phone and techno, finally got one that is okay for all I need do online, read news, my blog, and reach my family! Getting the phone ain’t just the problem, but keeping it through search upon searches is what counts and matters; one’ll be in awe to see the extend inmates can hide things, heard that the ladies at the carcel Femenino ( Female Jail) shoved theirs into their you know what! What a nice place to hide phone!

Amazing how compact phones has become, soon PC’s will be a thing of the past! Maybe when out, I should switch from IT and Business to Mobile Telecom! Or maybe something more rewarding, a life of working with inmates! lol!

Behind my iron bars, I can see virtually the world and it’s wrangling with clicks of buttons!
Someone once told me, that most inmates will spend their time here on their beds and of a truth, it takes a very strong will-power to live a positive life here (smart phones, porn movies, bed n curtain to cover one from peeping Tom and no proper programs to follow and finally the estacy of life here; Moonshine; comes as Distilled liquor or fermented wine, not bad to get one elevated for the moment out of his miserable life!); there’s nothing to motivate or spur one into doing something positive. Heard of jails where life is on routine, over here, nobody gives a damn sh** of what goes on here! No warden or cops are seen inside, one sits outside like our secretary and once in a while comes in to draw in a line of Angel dust from his inmate buddies! Heard of 2 or 3 laptops in my Pavilion, but nobody knows who owns them as lips are tight sealed and they only bring them out from their stashed places in the dead of the night!

One from a society or a life that revolves around knowledge and one where automation is your daily life. The only thing here that adds a bit of civilisation to our lives here are; our smart phones, Television, radio and little gadgets here and there!
Other that the aforementioned, life is full of misery and any amount of time; days, weeks, months or years spent here are all wasted!
From most arguments that I have read, prison shouldn’t just be a place to punish crime but a place for rehabilitation, neither of the two purposes had or will be accomplished as many Latinos here has done time and time again in this same pavilion. Well, I’ll conclude that many love life inside, like the nationals, keeping them behind bar is an extension of their lives as I have seen some escaped from Renacer and ended up being killed in gangs shoot-out! If they knew they would’ve stayed back and enjoyed the protection they got for free in the jail!
On the Punishment side; yes! for those of us far from home, yes it’s serving that purpose, as we don’t have visit except for our consul and volunteers who sacrificed time and resources to visit us. But majority of the latinos live very relax as they get their loved ones visit them every fortnight and they know the right buttons to press for things to happen. With money and the right contact one can nearly anything and even get laid!
Heard rumours; well there’s never a rumour in jail, there always a pinch of truth in all inside stories! Heard that some latinos had paid to get laid by the trans in pavilion 2 opposite ours, (most are the closest thing to real women here; gone under the knife and with cleavage like real women, when they are out on patio, our boys goes all wacko tossing green notes for them to flash their tits!) and Cops actually take them in there. So anything can happen here once you know the right buttons to press!
Just on Tuesday, while in the gym, saw one of the transvestite walked out of our pavillion; all eyes were on him and loads of catcalling! Guess, most will know whose cell she/he was coming out from. She/he was giggling and smiling as she walks out; mimicking catwalk like women does! Hummmm!
Some cells are covered up with thick dark blind of curtains, even during the day, they remained covered and closed from peeping eyes. The older inmates here knows who is doing who! Only pray that, no outbreak of any disease. Since the last death which I witness and that was out of negligence from the Director, the young lad had HIV prior to coming here from an interior prison; Darien!
Two days before his death, the Director with visiting officials came in and saw the condition of the lad, didn’t do anything, at least an effort of taking him to the hospital would have been made. If he had died in the hospital, it would have been a different story. He later died on Sunday night or early Monday morning. Wasn’t the first and doubt if he will be the last. There had others whose death could have been prevented if the right thing was done and they get the right medical attention! But nothing was done to prevent the death, guess as one warden once said, one gone is one problem less for them!

My major preoccupation now, is doing my time and going home to pick up my life where it stood still!
Life inside a foreign jail, well don’t know what it looks like back home, but from the others who had done time back home. They wished and will do twice the time they will spend here back home. Life is so expensive, without support from families and loved ones, wonder how life will be and for how long can people bear it!
Just read in the news of inmates complaining of poor food conditions back home. For such news to make it to the media, it’s obviously true! Wouldn’t believe that food will be a problem in Dutch prison; but it was actually a problem until it was addressed, if the authorities had sorted it out!
Complaints here turns into deaf ears as everybody thinks that someone is doing or will do it!
I’ve resolved to do self-medication. Using the internet as a research tool, can easily look up any information needed. We used to speak with Doctor Muerto (Dr. Death), and he smuggles pills from the dispensary upstairs to sell us. He earned his name from his previous job; dealing on human body parts! What a job, he’s been here for years, survived two cardiac arrest! Who knows how the 3rd will hit him! Hope not like a sledge hammer!
Witnessed many slumping on the floor, and wheeled out, some in that conditions spent hours before the cops get them to the clinic which is poorly staffed! Our bodies has developed strong immunity against so much here. Believe the five day I was bedridden
Was when I was going through transformation and getting my immune system tuned to life behindBars in Panama!

So much happening in here, loads of moonshines, dopes and fags. Guess Colombia should become the drug hub of the world as they’re chucking all sorts of stuffs to keep people on the high side of life! lol!. Seen some pills with one of the little lads here; a Colombian who looks like a minor, always walking with his head and eyes on the floor, who knows what he is looking for! He’s always high on anything available. In appearance looks 15yrs old, but he’s 19yrs of age, in the gym storage room, saw one of the big dealers giving him a line to draw!
Over here, nobody gives a sh** about each other, greed is at its highest, everyone is busy with himself! One has to look out for himself, so glad that Schat being able to send me enough vitamins to help supplement with the poor diet and the Consulate here has been a very good instrument in getting done! If not for them, who knows what state we will be now! Many are with underlying illness that needs proper medical attention, but they will never get it here as the authorities won’t spend a cent in expensive treatment for a common prisoner!

My high blood pressure doesn’t response anymore to the medication I’m using, should go for routine check up, but that will never happen as I’m here. On my cholesterol, got no idea what it is now, most inmates pay to get to private clinic; but then one must have the fund for such!

Water! Just as it’s of importance outside is like diamond to us here, since the heavy rainfall that has devastated some parts of the Country, water has become a pressing issue, for days we have been without water, luckily we have extra buckets on the top of our cage-like cell, some cells are fully equipped with electric water pump, large water tanks and functioning electric water heater for shower! Feeling at home away from home!
Many things has been suspended as a result of the water shortage!
Guess, we will be the last they will think of during these water crisis! Hope things get better as days without will be disastrous here!
So much been coming in, including knives, not ones for use in the kitchen, but proper fighting knives, they were brought to my cell for my mate, the price was ridiculous. One that will cost a tenner on tje outside was offered for $70, after buying comes the aches of finding a good stash for it. Well, someone eventually got the knives! Fights are very rare here, but when it happens, it becomes very bloody! Hope whoever got the knives will keep and use it as his kitchen knife! lol! The need for knives goes way back to the insecurity surrounding our livesBehindBars! Even in sleep, one barely sleep deep as you don’t know who is watching you close yours eyes! As the Latinos are known for doing jobs for others, always on the Watch out!

Since my trial and seeing the performance of my lawyer, I opted to drop him, despite his poor performance, he still have the guts to ask for more money; which there’s none to sort him!
Exactly, three Months after my trial, I rang the court and after being put on hold for more than 30 Mins, finally got a mixed blessing news; firstly, got my sentence which can’t be in print as it’s ridiculous and appalling, time is chucked out as with the mood of the sitting judge, irrespective of your crime, once it has to do with drugs, the quantity does not count here in Panama! And secondly, I can now officially apply for a transfer to do my time back home; which will be the last hurdle as I’ve been told I’m not eligible since I moved to different country for my studies!
Well, I won’t give up hope as many around me has not given up hope on me!

I hope my journey will end on a positive note; which will be my transfer to do my time back home as we have a transfer of sentenced person treaty with Panama!

So much has happened since my transfer to La Joya Maximum penitentiary! Life and survival here depends on one trait that has mankind and animals survived through centuries of hardship; BLENDING!

Figured out that to live through here, one must blend and conform to the way life is lived here! Once behindBar, one is striped off so many things which many will never get back!

Final update today 19th day of December 2010! Days before Christmas day, should be in the comfort of my home, but my decisions and actions has caused me to trade place for life full of suspense and one saturated with hope and dreams that I longed for to be real!

To help relieve the heat and depression of life here, I’ve adopted the prison cat and her kittens which are very entertaining(their pictures are attached here with this update of my blog)! And being around this little animals who neither knows where they are nor what lies outside the gates of this pavilion!
I’m tempted to buy a little puppy offered for sale by one of the Panamanians in the pavilion that housed the kitchen! Gotta raised $50 for that!
Would be nice to have proper companions other than the cons around one and only around you for what they will get from you; as they always do each time I walked in from visit by the Consul or our volunteers!

My blog and twitter (DoingTimeAbroad) will continue as I find it necessary and of important to send my points of view and life situation behindBar for a foreigner in a foreign land!

An interesting site and links about Panama; though, many good are written about Panama, but the true picture lies behind and beyond the skyline and high rise building of the capital. Corruption and liquidations is everyday thing alongside fun and viva la vida!

Links and News about Panama:

http://www.Panama-guide.com

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Joyita_Prison?wasRedirected=true

planetc1.com/search/the-jewel-of-panama-a-chiropractors-experience-in-one-of-the-world-s-most-feared-prisons.html

A quote from a chiropractor who visited the La Joya Penitentiary Complex!:
“I could see the buildings in which the prisoners lived. It did not look anything like a prison you would see in a U.S. made movie, it looked much more like a concentration camp or a prisoner of war camp type of setting”.

More news on the brutality of the prison system in Panama also known as the Banana Republic (this reminds me of an essay I wrote about the Banana crisis between the US and Europe in 2004, an article was in The Guardian on the above problem and we were told to write an essay on it! Worth remembering! did a good research and wrote a very good piece that earned me an A; little did I know I’ll have a first hand experience in one of the countries I wrote about in my essay! Life! This days, the battle has gone beyond Bananas, it’s all about the white powder; Cocaine! Angel’s Dust, Charlie and what it’s called out there!

bananamarepublic.com/2010/05/20/government-loses-control-over-la-joya-prison/

More news about Panama and for those thinking of business investment in the Logistic Country in Central America:
bananamarepublic.com/2010/12/03/is-panama-ready-for-the-wikileaks-cables/

So much on the net about this little country than most great or larger nations in the world!

Hope my time here will be short-lived and soonest, will be back home!

ASI ES LA VIDA!!!

“The Measure of a Man is not wether he falls, but wether he rises again from the fall”

A Year On and Still Counting!!!

Posted in Behind Bars in Panama on December 12, 2010 by doingtimeabroad

Being a long while and so much has happened, but through it all till this moment, I had kept my sanity!
Just like others were hauled to the maximum jail, I knew my day will come; a date with fate and it did came on d early morning of Friday the 25th of June! Been reading all night, just about to lay my head and catch some sleep!
Heard noises of people walking and slaming the main gate into the Galeria; then I knew the time has come! Like others gone before us, we were called one after the other and hauled out. Taking with us our accumulated properties.
One thing I learned about life here, always travel light as we were in chains both hands and feet; carrying our belongings into the waiting bus for the long trip to La Joya (My second stop at the beginning of my journey and life behind bars).
Slept most of the way and when we finally arrived, same process; in chains, we took our things and walked more than 500m to where were stripped search for phones, knives, drugs and money. The Colombians with phones who had been in the system knows how things work; paid same police searching us to let their phones in.
Some even knew some of the cops from the street, what a life! Luckily I was taken back to my former Pavilion; Pavilion 6, which happened to be the best pavilion in the whole of La Joya and La Joyita Prison Systems!
The guys here are so organised that they’ve won the trust of the management, keys are left with us, we get patio each day; lately it has been on the discretion of the cop on duty or the cop’s boss from above.
In comparison with other pavilion, so much had been achieved here, good functioning gym, patio access, and less police presence among the population!
Luckily, I had a cell and a place on the floor; where I’ve been sleeping for the past 6 Months. Should finally move to a bed as one of my mate will be going home after 8 yrs without trial!
I finally went to court in Sept, couple of days before my 1year here. Had to asked for video conference as in most cases, transportation had been a major problem in getting inmates to appointments. Had hoped I’ll get my decision same day as most people. But till this moment there has been no decision from the judge whom I believe my lawyers must have been an influence as he knows he won’t be getting money from me for doing a lousy representations!
So much has happened from my last Blog in May till now, Manni; my former cellmate at Renacer and few core people in the film project are the only survivors of the transfer. But then things got a bit worse as more Panamanians were taken over there. Lots of stealings, fight and bullying.
Over here, fighting is very rare, once you are lucky to be in a good cell, be rest assured your things are safe! But being unfortunate and end up in a bad cell, things will be doing the vanishing acts and when you complain, they tell you to look for another cell.
The Pavilion was filled, inmates had to sleep in the gym hall, but in October many were taken to a renovated pavilion in La Joya!
Others survived the transfer, those that left were glad to have a bed, but the only disadvantage there is the pavilion has no cells, just a big open dormitory with bunk bed, just 4 communal toilets and shower for 70 inmates!
Hope they enjoy there as we like it here!
Schat and the kids has been a very strong support both emotionally and materially! We chat and talk when we can, this sort of communications has helped bridged the gap and distance between.
The gym, reading has been very helpful. I had taken on me to help sort the little libray here; Manni has been sending me books from Renacer and the Consulate has been supplying us with books in our home language.
Recently, adopted the centre’s cat and her kittens. Torito and I have been fully responsible for the well-being of the Feline family! Cute little things! Fell for them as my daughter is a cat’s person. She is glad I have them.
Life continues and truly life behindBars in a foreign land is different experience from what we see on television or read! It’s living the experience!
Water is not portable and food is always half-cooked salted rice with whatever they deemed as edible!
I hope my phone will survive and serve the purpose I need it for as I now blog and tweet (@doingtimeabroad) via my phone!
Gotta sleep as I need to catch few hourse of sleep before day break!