Archive for March, 2013

Taming the Untamed and Untamable and the vicious circle.

Posted in Behind Bars in Panama, Doing Time Overseas!!! on March 25, 2013 by doingtimeabroad

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. ~ Unknown

“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.” – Abraham Lincoln

[When basic primal survival fears are activated in the “group mind” of the masses, this fear induces the motivation for a population to willingly give up their rights and liberty even for merely the promise of more protection from the boogeymen.] ~ According to Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of needs”

The above excerpt clearly dissects what happens in the mind of an inmate once he walks through those steel doors into the pavilion; Fear of the unknown and uncertainty sets in, so also insecurity. As soon as he settles in, hooks up with a gang for protection. But at the expense of his liberty; until he proves himself worthy. By carrying out the gangs objectives. He remains a foot soldier in the gangs hierarchy.
“If an injury has to be done to a man, it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.” – Niccolo Machiavelli (maybe on rational thinking; but in prison, a prisoner will never forget and will wait for his day of vengeance; that one deadly day)

The daily stresses of life behind bars easily makes one irritable with each others, thus, picking up at every Little annoyance or criticise and blurt out harmful, unkind words without thinking of the consequences; which could be very fatal or deadly.

The prison was meant to hold prisoners safely and decently, and to ensure prisoners leave as better people than when they came in. But rarely do we see that as the numbers of re-offenders are soaring very high.

Prisons; We judge others by the way they affect us; circumstances and people are labelled “Bad” if they thwart our plans or cause us inconvenience. And accept anything that favours or support our cause. Thus, gangs thrives in jails and prison; individuals with common interest and goal, acting like an entity.

The basic idea of locking people up is to reprieve them of what they took for granted; #Freedom. Punishment; a word that comes with the duration of incarceration, which to many inmates it is just numbers. It could be days, weeks, months or years of deprivation of everything one once cherished. Once behind bars, the numbers becomes race for survival and at all cost; outwitting, betrayals, snitching and turn-coats, all becomes the norms for one’s survival. Some resolved to prostitution to live well, for affection and protection; that, I have seen!

Freedom and liberty once taken for granted becomes what a prisoner craves for with his life. It is then, the wildness with which life was lived takes a different turn; to turn a new leaf or acquire new skills in the dark arts of the underworld to be used upon released; these ones will leave the system undaunted and ready to start where they stopped or where they were stopped by the long arms of the law; armed with new skills and techniques.

‘Nothing changes until you change. Everything changes once you change.’ – unknown #quote

Many are hauled into the pavilion; wild and unkempt after spending; days, weeks or months in the transitional jail (if there’s hell on earth, Panama’s transitional jail called Ancon is that hell; inmates are packed like sardines, deprived of natural air; inmates literally breathe from each other, sunlight; one doesn’t know when it’s daylight or night and food for the duration one is held up there). I assume they made it that way, so when one is finally brought to the main prison; you are then ready to accept wherever you are thrown into, believing it’ll be better. But, little did one know, there’s no difference in wherever one is held up. I was astounded when I learnt that some inmates pay money to be left in that condition; fear of reprisals when they’re sent to the main prison #GangWars…..the Untamed ones.

Everyday spent in the joint is a living nightmare; but then, why are many repeated offenders or re-offenders? Why will anybody want to come back here; the food; my cats won’t even go near, no basic necessity like water, sleep space! And none is been paid to do time! So why do they keep coming back?

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” ~ Albert Einstein

I believe the answer to that question lies within the system; it’s likely the prison system is not serving its purposes. Namely; to Punish and Reform or Rehabilitate! Instead it serves as a grooming hub where rookies get coached and established wider links. Thus, Hardened! The authorities had promised to break the circle, by enforcing educational and training programmes among inmates; but as we have come to know, they are all empty promises.

I have seen many inmates who are used to being locked up and they always look forward to coming back to the joint after a brief vacation on the streets as free men. These lads feel more safer, earns respect and are loved within the walls of the joint. The system had failed to rehabilitate them and weaned them off the influences of prison gangs.

The Role of Smartphones, Internet, Social media among inmates:

The world seems to be moving at the speed of light, gone are the days inmates will sit up all night scribbling pages of letters trying to save their marriages, keeping tab of their lives behind bars, and penning down plans and regrets. Corruption has afforded us a luxury within the walls of the prison that has made doing time emotionally manageable; can’t imagine what life would have been if the only means of communication was the never-working four public telephones in the pavilion; to serve over 500 inmates. Life would have been miserable; thus, frequent bloody brawl.

With our new-found technology has come freedom to explore and exploit; the internet brought a world without frontiers and endless horizons. Many of us are thousands of miles away from our loved ones, but with clicks of buttons we’re united in cyberspace; with video chat and instant chat interfaces so much can be done. The body can be gratified and satisfied; recently, read a BBC article on online porn, little did the author of the report knows that the biggest consumer of online porn are inmates who have access to those porns via smartphones, tablets, laptops and having downloaded them into external flash drives to be watched on the various portable DVD Players with USB slots. Many times, been asked for my portable DVD player by mates who wants to help themselves. La vida

I have had phones brought to me for minor issues; only to discover the owner does nothing else other than downloading porn; who flippin know what he has in mind or what he has been experimenting with! This is prison; where all sort of weird characters live side by side! So one should expect to find; the good, the bad, and the ugly! Guess our major preoccupation here is gratifying our bodies needs! Loooool

Forgive yourself for your faults and your mistakes and move on. ~ Les Brown

Fast Forward; 12:14:15 on SUN 13 JAN 2013!
Had hope this blog will be online before or on Christmas day of 2012, but due to some unforeseen prison circumstances and technical hitches it has taken forever; run-up to Christmas was busy as hell (that is, if there’s another hell than this). Then the hitch that seemed like a stabbed in my heart; some keys on my keypad wouldn’t function. The latter got my grounded, guess it’s time to change my phone, it has served its purpose. Without the phone, it would have been a living nightmare; glad there’s corruption, despite it also brings in dangerous and deadly stuffs. Things like the guns and other weapons that are in the hands of inmates.

What our home country has decided to do; abandoning us here might not be unfair; as they likely want us to pay for our crimes the hard way. But then, it’s definitely different from what our other compatriots from the islands have; they eventually get repatriated. I assumed we are in the same sinking boat; but they got a bail-out as they can opt for the islands via #LOTS! But those of us heading back home to the motherland has got no choice of where to turn to once refused and denied the #WOTS process. We’re on our own; between the devil and the deep blue sea!

FF 01:06:05 on SAT 19 JAN 2013
Left my reception post around 00:15…… To my surprise, one of my kittens who is always waiting for me, actually smelled me amongst all the inmates standing and hanging around the passage; she ran between my legs with her tail raised high and longing for attention. I was touched seeing that; it’s usually around 3ISH or later that she walks with me to my cell and gets a reward of a bowl of milk. But today’s experience was astonishing, I’m left to wonder if she is always waiting for me all night. I hope more inmates will adopt them and send them to their loved ones.

02:06:08 on MON 21 JAN 2013
The week and the weekend was a busy one with many unfolding events; sometimes it’s like a wonderland with bizarre things happening that doesn’t make sense; firstly… The Director’s office was broken into; it sound unbelievable, but it did happened. The break in happened at night when everyone is under lock; if it wasn’t done by the hungry and corrupt cops, then the inmates who did it are stupid. If I could break out of my cell at night; I should definitely be on my way to freedom. But they are panamanians; life is better and bearable on the inside than on the streets.

Then came the hardest blow to the corrupt system; every pavilion has got a grocery man, who walks around from cell to cell, collects groceries list and money from inmates placing orders for whatever they want for the day. They are known to handle large amount of money, but not theirs.

The Paquito (as they are called in Spanish or panamanian Spanish) from pavilion 8 (the second foreigner’s pavilion and maximum security in the system) was ambushed and robbed at gunpoint right beside our pavilion on his way to place his orders for Sunday. He was robbed of $1600; right under the nose of our cop sitting outside our pavilion. Not even the cops sent to guard us are armed; but inmates are roaming the complex with guns like cowboys. What a flippin irony; the cops are supposed to be armed, but it’s the other way around; inmates are the ones walking around with guns.

Well, since the inmates are moving to a better and more deadly weapons; from knives to gun, things will take a different turn in the centre. But then, wardens and cops has been arrested for bringing in pistols and knives for inmates. Thus, the trend continues.

In my pavilion; since the leadership has changed hands. Getting inmates to adhere to our unwritten codes of conduct is what the new leadership will be facing; society and authorities couldn’t tame us, why should a fellow inmate do that.

23:43:30 @SUN 24 MAR 2013;

Finally got my keypad and screen fixed; but at the expense of my cherished wristwatch. But of what value is a wristwatch in jail? We don’t have time to keep, instead we are doing time. Appointments; we eagerly wait for the day, but the wardens and those to take us out will never turn up. Thus, didn’t see much need of the watch. But having a fully functional phone is worth a million bucks! Glad I can get back to my scribbling without the irritation of the old keypad!

Hence, no more phones in the gym.. Should get me an mp3 player or an iPod… Freakin need music while working out; helps with concentration and blocks all the sarcastic noises, many comes to gym to let out their bottled-up anger and depression; but not at the weights, but directed at other inmates. And the gym is not the right place to start a fight; deadly!

Read some articles recently on bacteria developing resistance to the most powerful antibiotics; this could become our new plight as many amongst are always demanding antibiotics for any infection, even for a minor raise of body temperature. Well, my cellmate who sells and deals in medicine; has a wife and two kids to feed, he eagerly sells his stuffs without a second thought.

The prison community is know to have high instances of obesity (poor diet of mainly carbs and fat), hypertension, diabetes, anxiety and depression

Many amongst are walking around with gravely bodily infections (defying our self-medication treatments) that could be contagious and with our overcrowded condition we all stand at risk of picking one type of infection or another. And the state of hygiene among us is in a sorry state; we work hard to keep the place tidy, but many among us barely have any clue of what personal hygiene is all about, got some in my cells who uses the toilets and wouldn’t wash their hands; and the toilets serves 13 inmates! Bottles filled with urine are left on the passage during the night, since water is our #1 nightmare, many are ready to go a long while with bathing; walking with bodily stench and clothes oozing body odour.

The latest to be taken to the general hospital; the lad has been very sick for months and the authorities knew about his condition, but nobody gave a damn.. Well, our only prayer, is for his recovery, but then, they have to diagnose and find out whatever he is sick of!

Like everything that evolves around us; we hope that something positive will be done to our situation. Will be depressing to find out upon released that one has picked some strange drugs/cure-defying disease from the joint.

On a good note;

In prison, time can be an inmate’s worst enemy. Some find constructive ways to fill it. Others…hopelessly watch it tick away.

Few among us are picking up positive skills which they lacked before fate brought them in here; many create and do things to make money for their upkeep as many don’t get support from families or friends.

Wooden crates that comes in with plantain are used for stools/chairs and tables, cartons are used for beds and makeshift shanks, empty plastic litre bottles are cut open and rejoined to make pipes and tv antennae are made from any metal which readily available; same metals are good and raw material for our primary assurance; knives!

The time in the slammer had given me the time to explore the other part of me; learning creative writing amongst other things and honing my survival skills! These years could be seen as wasted years; but they are years valuable lessons could be learn, such that one won’t get in classes.

While others are also honing and perfecting on their skills to go back and continue where they were stopped! Some of us will leave and definitely won’t be coming back¤.

It does not matter how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get up. – Vince Lombardi

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. -Lucille Ball

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” ~ Albert Einstein

Perhaps the day may come when we shall remember these sufferings with joy. ~ Virgil

A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials. – Chinese Proverbs

If we want less crime, it is time we turned toward the opportunities presented by restorative and relational approaches. ~ James O’Dea

There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures. ~ William Shakespeare