Life In The Joint: Bloody Friday, The 13th and Inmates Losing their Minds due to the pressure

Last week was a hectic one, one with a sort of mixed feelings of joy and sadness. But in all things as the Holy Book says; Give thanks for all situations.

The surprise visit by our Consul at the beginning of last week, brought smiles on my lips, as she came with my package from home with all my needed stuffs. But it also created anxiety and tension between me and few greedy fellas who always want but will never give a cent out; such are the lives of greedy criminals. They see your stuffs, at the moment, they’re your friends. But when they have theirs, the looks on their faces tells you; Don’t even think of it before you say the word.

Workout has been haphazardly as I had to stopped workout on two occasions to go upstairs; first my consul’s Monthly visit (that one is ok) and then the flippin Shrinks sent for me for what they called evaluation. Can’t believe the sort of questions I was asked. Like to share some of them here;

Quest #1: Do I feel comfortable in my cell? Yea sure I feel very OK! And superb like I’m in penthouse with Barbies! living with nine other inmates in a cell built for six inmates; isn’t that comfortable enough as in the word C O M F O R T!

Drinking coloured water; apparently the best way to drink the water after boiling and having cooled, simply add a spoonful of cool-aid to mask the colour and give it a hint of whatsoever flavour one desired (How do I feel about that)

Also on the food; don’t blame them as I see, it’s a norm in Panama; those on the bottom of the ladder of life rarely eat good and well. So why should prisoners be any better. I actually asked one of them, why does the cops at security refused peanut butter from entering during visit as that’s the only thing I often ask my mates to buy for me; on that she had no answer!

Another question that I answered with a question;

They asked, if I read, study or follow any educational or vocational programme; one which I answered by asking if the authorities has provided any programme for us (she said, they’re working on programmes to bring education to all inmates; that’ll be when thine Kingdom come).

She asked about my embassy or home government (if they provide us with programme), to that, I responded, as a prisoner in Panama, I had expected the Panamanian government to punish and rehabilitate me and others and get us ready for our return to the society.

Also reminded her that, how can one read or study when one is busy searching for what he will eat, for water to bath and drink. And  noises from one’s chatterbox-like inmates and from daily blast of Salsa and vallenato.

Reminded her of the congested cells; the pavilion was built for 216 Inmates at a time, but today we are more than 500 muddled in here (even sardines are packed with oil to keep them fresh). The facilities can’t hold us any longer; leaked sewage, over population of rodents, roaches and all sorts of creepy stuffs crawling over one’s body. Some inmates have woken up next to scorpion and gigantic spiders; such seen on natural geography channel. She didn’t have any solution for that. Hope her Government will one day see the harm they had caused. The Panamanian prison system is known to be a breeding ground for gangs and hardcore criminals; especially among the Nationals; we the foreigners will do our time and be sent back home, but their citizens will graduate from these school of hard knock with loaded and reloaded experience on how to improved on what they did before coming here. Isn’t that a vicious circle that can’t be broken!

The meeting with the shrinks went good, wonder what others discussed with them as many others were called up before me and many more will be called. Hope they all make known of our plights to the authorities.

Got some of my supplements, but need all to keep me going with my workout. Those with solid connections gets all they want with a click of fingers. I have lost money in trying to get things through via via; at the end of the day, they will agree to reimburse me, but in peanuts. So gotta be patient and stick to having stuffs sent from home to me.

The centre has been buzzing with the wrangling of prison’s life; dealing and hustling to make ends meet. It’s the survival of the fittest or the most connected;).

The inmates sleeping in the gym hall are encroaching into the space meant for workout; leaving us with little or no space, workout time is from 7am to 1pm each day, but the gym is so cramped now and some inmates are stashing some of the equipment in their cells; not nice having your cell mate keeping a dumbbell under his bed, but then what can one do. Gotta do my best with my workout routine as it’s the only way to move one’s body and keeps one’s health in check.

Friday the 13th; kinda creepy day….. Woke up to the sound of guns, thought another escape. Sooner we got the low down. Pavilion 15 next door to ours, but under the administration of our sister prison; La joyita. Was the scene of the drive-by;), it’s a known fact that within the national inmates population, there are all sorts of weapons and even grenade; all to be use when needed. Like in the case of Friday the 13th, the lads needed to liquidate someone.

The reason; best known to the one who pulled the trigger, but as we have come to know them, anything could be the cause; Mal Palabra (wrong word at the wrong time and wrong place; as in this case) or It could be a gang job from the street that need to be done on the inside, jealous lover as in the case of the village people in Pavilion 2 when a jealous gay lover killed his rival; won’t that make good episode in CSI Miami series?)

It’s so funny as the inmates in that pavilion are all new, they were brought in from another pavilion, while the former inhabitants were taken to theirs; now the question in my mind and in the mind of any right-thinking fella would be; How the fcuk did they get the gun in, within such a short period of time? And the answer will always be; The Corrupt system! They will bring in anything illegal, things that will be used to harm, but won’t let in vitamins and food that are badly needed. Many sickness amongst us are illness that vitamins and proper nutritions would have prevented. But nobody give a damn about inmates.

Through the week, parties are celebrated, some lads have been on the bender for days now; drinking from dawn till dusk, one is left to wonder what they are celebrating; well I did asked and they told me it’s “Alegre”; meaning, they are drinking for “Happiness”. I will rather drink for a moment; when my thought wonders aback into memory lane; reminiscing the past glories and good times lost! Maybe listening to some powerful tenors or my classic playlist;), I rather not drink; maybe will take a little for the stomach sake when I eventually make my wine; grapes and apple! Ain’t bad. I did Irish coffee, wasn’t bad as my friends tried and liked it. One gotta do his time with a pinch of excitement or else you’re doomed; leaving this place forever broken like my released Jamaican mate, he left here distorted and doubt if he could be fixed.

Talking of excitement; I guess the stress of being locked up can be very hard on some people. Few guys I had looked upon as decent seems to be the opposite; seeing the aggression in their moods and the mood swings; I initially thought it’s the stress but sooner I found out that the late night walks and hovering from one dealer’s cell to another is to purchased dosage of what keeps them excited and going; a fuel for the go! Too bad, as prisons were meant to be a place of punishment and correction or rehabilitation, but damn it if anyone is ever punished or rehabilitated; this place is more or less like a summer boot-camp for men. Ones sent out by the wives to go sort their heads;)

If I’m to leave here with all that is boiling on the inside of me, damn, I will be a menace to the society at large; punching everyone that speaks bad of me or a threat to my company. But one thing I have learned so far; “Anger management”, which many here are yet to figure out what it is. To my Jamaican inmate pals; it’s a song by “Movado” (A Jamaican Dancehall DJ) !!!;)

I have learned to turn every fiery situations into laugh; even when sarcasm is thrown at me. But setting a boundary is also important. We can joke about ourselves, but no family! Period!

So far, we’re living in peace among ourselves except for few fracas after too much of moonshine or liquor; then men begins to act like Babies; A Mexican lad who trains with me when he wakes up early from his late-night binged drinking been walking around with heavy eyes, after receiving heavy punches from another fella; now gotta watch his back.
Also debtors being hustled by their creditors for unpaid promises. I ventured into the food business with my lousy mate; I’m flippin bankrupt as chicken (KFC styled with my secret recipe) were mostly sold on credit and the lousy lad didn’t even know whom he sold to, what a good business partner; I’m wondering whoever entrusted him with 500+ kilo of Angel Dust! The lad can’t write, read or add up numbers, but he knew the number of keys he had in his boat and he knows all types of guns; such are my pals.

Isn’t nice to be a good leader for once; I introduced herbal tea to some fat-fighter zealots who wants to loss weight but can’t help munching fried pork skin; now they come to me for herbal tea prescription;) and they seems to like it.

Flippin easy to loss weight; indulge in our No-one-knows-the-alcohol-percent moonshine; two things will happen, loss weight and look like a dead-man-walking with sunk eyes socket or end in the unstaffed clinic with toxic liver!

I guess, we all gotta do something to help with the time and the stress of being cramped in here like sardines.

It’s 01:15:49 on Sun, Apr 15, 2012, my sick inmate is on it again; lately, he’s been playing with the stray white cat, which many don’t like. Sometimes I care for it, but after I saw what he did to the in-house cats, I always sent him out. Flippin don’t know what he was doing with the cat. The cat urinated on his body (wondering if he wanted to find out if cat’s urine glows in darkness); little did he know that he is allergic to cat; his eyes are swollen and his whole body looked like someone who was thrown into a chemical waste, red and swollen.

How lucky he was, in my package that came, I have anti-allergic pills, gave him some. Hope by tomorrow he gets better. This should serve as a warning and lesson; that he should stay off those cats and I’m glad as he won’t go near the newly born kittens.

Talking of kittens, the mother cat had two kittens, got pictures on my twitter; @DoingTimeAbroad and now her daughter also gave birth to two beautiful kittens; seen three generations since my incarceration;)! Now she is “La Gata Abuela”; the Grandmother Cat”,  hope the kittens will live as their life expectancy inside here could be liken to ours; anything can happen! It’s a jungle.

So much could happen in one week, but just one thing keeps us going and believing; HOPE!!!

Sunday; Weekend nearly and officially over, it was la fiesta till you can’t stand on your feet anymore. I guess the fiesta was in celebration as Monday will be visit-day! The visit day is like our Pay-day; everything you’ll think of comes in on that day; fortnightly! Legal and illegal (depending on how smart and artful whoever will bring them in is).

My lousy lil mate got the first batch of my brew (homemade wine) (Moonshine) out for his mates; who were on the bender from dawn till dusk. Music, chatting, drinking, smoking and those that need something of higher realm will take occasionally walk to sniff and snort, then back to drink. There were proper dancing; Salsa like ones seen in Cali Salsa’s Classes. Most should have thought of taking choreographic as profession instead flying keys in boats;)

My twisted compatriot was taken to the hospital after playing with the white stray cat and developed some allergic reaction; damn serious ones and scary like a cast of Undead!

We heard he’s admitted, but he later came back with a prescription to buy his drugs; such is the way our host treats foreign prisoners. If he doesn’t have the money to buy the drugs, he’s left for fate to deal with him and be ravaged by whatever disease he’s got. On the back of every sound inmate here is the desire to live hygienic and leave here sane and sound.

As the last of the music fades away, so also the merriment, one after the other the pulled themselves to their cells to hit the concrete slabs call “Bed”, others to hammocks hanging around the top of the cells like Batmen taking a nap before hitting the streets for some heroic call of duty.

Once one is lucky to have a bed; the beginning of one’s misery. The bed is solid concrete build to last forever. The connected ones are lucky to have proper and comfortable mattresses, but with the ply of foam; such as mine, I woke up each morning with sore and ache back and joints. Once you’re awake, you don’t just jump and scream good morning mates; but first keep yours eyes open and make a quick check of which of your limps or joint is fcuked up real good before moving them. It’s like the check one does in his car before turning on the ignition. Gotta do that every blessed morning, to be sure I’m up fit and whole;)

I’m lucky to have two pillows, many will use whatever they find as pillows. All the books in the library are gone for such purposes; the library only exist in our minds as the library is now an active cell with some old fellas.

Monday The 16th of April; came and gone!

Another visit day and loads of food in the pavilion. This is the only day my cats feast on whatever leftovers brought to them. After this day, their bowls will become a dumping ground for cigarettes butt, even some flippin drunk weirdos urinates in their bowl. On visit days, it’s like a market in here, so much to be sold; as inmates hawk around with all sort of stuffs; flip flops, shorts, white underwear (when the colour to wash them is coloured), white bedsheets, white ankle-sockings (every clothe items brought in by families has to be white or they won’t be allowed in; but they forgot that the water isn’t white enough to keep the white in the clothes forever white).

We’re in dire need of shower curtain for our toilet as the one now is hanging on a thread of hope; but the flippin cops won’t let my mate’s spouse to bring one in, even after she explained to them. If she had had a pack of coke or weed, guess they will let those in. Gotta hope and depend on my consul to get me one.
Meant to get this online on Monday night, but the signal went loco as always. Hope it’ll strong enough to upload this now.

Our lives continues as we battle with all elements and forces within and without us for our survivals.

Many are coming and many will go, but all one pray for is to walk out on his feet and not be carried out in a body bag.

An article on BBC web site talks about the mortality rate in Latin American Prisons as been the highest in the world; Panama is no exception. One’s survivals depends on many factors; humility, respect, cliché, gangs, your mates, greed and finally; Never stick your nose in other’s businesses!

And a word for those that have ears;

A food for thought;

Never look down or underestimate anybody when you are in the slammer; not even the cops will do that as they know what an inmate is capable of doing. Every man (small, big, young or old) who has made it into this school of hard knock life is well man enough to do the unthinkable!

Mental deterioration; it’s becoming apparent that many of the inmates here are becoming sick and losing the ability to function and fend for themselves. My twisted inmates have us doing almost everything for him. He looks so ragged and rough, a make over will do him loads of good.

Now is a Jamaican inmate who once lived in the States; the one that has my Easter card on his neck as a pendant. When he came in here, he was always seen with the Bible; told me, he want to rewrite the Bible and correct certain things that ain’t right. Well, didn’t take him serious then. But so much is coming out of the closet about him. He did time in mental institutions in America and in his country Jamaica. For many years he has been on psychotic drugs; but nobody knew about it.

He’s a fun guy, his signature is his Deep Bass voice; think the Late Barry White walking down the passage selling a top up card and shouting; Mas Movil (Barry White’s voice)….that’s what he’s know for. Nobody knew that lurking inside of him was a man waiting to exhale, he love using Biblical words when talking to anyone and always get the lads confused.

From his cell mates, his problems started when he fell back on weed and liquor; smoking and Drinking to help with the Stress, little did his drinking mates knew that his brain can’t handle it.

He believes he can fly, took his clothes off, climbed to the top of the cells and was about acting out his beliefs; flying. Did see him tried walking through the walls, he asked me if I could. Well, told him to take the lead, once he goes through I’ll be behind him. He’s flipped!

We just gave him a tablet of the medication used by my compatriot, hope it calms him down. And my compatriot is roaming around, talking and laughing at what fun he only sees or feels. Hope he finds his redemption.

Such is our ordeals here, medical history of inmates are never taken and classified, not even test are done to check inmates state of mind or our well-being. It’s always at the 11th hour when death comes knocking that the system will “try” to do something; but in the real sense, ain’t doing nothing.

He’s not the first and neither will he be the last. The pressure of being caged in without recreation, activities to help stimulate mind and body is devastating on inmates.

Hope after us, some day in the future help will come to the thousands slammed up here.

Now gotta search for El señal; it’s like precious stone, very rare! Even with 4G phones, one struggle to get a good signal, hope the wailing wall will be of help now. This piece is long due! Wanted to have it online on Friday 13TH! A gloomy day in the lives of inmates in pavilion 15! Terror and horror resides within us, but our desires to survive keeps us going.

No matter how dark the tunnel is, at the end of such tunnel is an opening with a ray of light that brings HOPE!!!


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