Life Behind Bars: So Far So Good!
“When people appear to be something other than good and decent, it is only because they are reacting to stress, pain, or the deprivation of basic human needs such as security, love, and self-esteem.” – Abraham Maslow (Toward a Psychology of Being, 1968)
The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss. ~Thomas Carlyle
They say, “What doesn’t kill you, make you stronger.”…….such is our ordeals as prisoners of fortunes or rightly put it; misfortune. If one survives the ordeals of life on the inside, he’s bound to come out stronger, but not in all cases as some has left broken and shaken by the experiences incurred in the slammer; many will leave and live through post trauma of things they witnessed or that happened to them on the inside.
‘Don’t measure yourself by what others have accomplished. But, by what you want to accomplish’
Life’s decisions and choices made at a certain point in our lives, eventually shapes our lives; our failures and successes are results of choices taken during decision making moments. But then, even in moment of failures, it is positive decisions and choices made that can bring a standing ovation from what one can accomplish after a great fail.
It’s 16:15 on Fri 18 Oct 2013…. Officially, weekend has began; music, boozes and smokes from cheap filters and hand rolled weed fills the stuffy, dry and hot air of the pavilion. Many are indulging in celebration of the narrow escape earlier on today. While these ones are having the time of their lives others are lamenting on the loses of precious possessions, namely, things that keeps us functioning; tablets, smartphones, arsenal of crude weapons, bag of cement [well, guess this one fell off a cement truck..Lol ;-)]….talking of cement, along with floor tiles, meat, milk and vegetables are all nicked by fellow inmates workers, locals or foreigners and sold among the populations to either sustain their addictive habits or their lives. Others will end up sending the proceeds to their loved ones or keep up with paying bills to keep the ladies that bares all to visit them; our lives our plight!
Today’s search was an impromptu one; no eavesdroppers or rumours about it, for days now the pavilion has been very hot, literally, it’s freakin hot as we barely have space to move around. Once you pick a spot, you’re confined to that spot or you sit put on your bed, if you have one or in your cell or on your bedspace, which could be the gym hall floor.
This type of hot in the pavilion is about our mode of communications; with young new inmates and those who wouldn’t adhere to our unwritten rules doing whatever pleases them. We sort of take the cops for granted, some days ago, two routers were seen sticking outside, the cops demanded for them, but none wanted to part ways with their precious. Then they struck earlier this week; just after the heavy rainstorm that cut us from the power grid for about 3hrs; that really sent them loco loco, more than 6 cops cars were stationed outside our pavilion. Wondering if we are so precious to them that we we need a 24hrs protection….. Well, we’re prisoners, meant to be locked up away from the rest of society.
That early morning after the storm, glad it rained as we fetched enough water that took us through to this day. They came in with ladders and cut off 6 routers, easy to know how many routers we have in here, set your phone to search for wifi connections and it does, and funny enough, the names used by most inmates; bad-ass names, clearly shows they’re el banditos de la fortuna.
Barely closed my eyes when I heard the rumbling this morning, like always, we have the key to the lock linking the pavilion to the gym hall, they made their way to the gym hall, but got stuck by the door to the pavilion. All we needed were seconds to get our stuffs to our stashes; which we did, but in the panic many did some blunders, like my mate who had set an alarm for 7.30am and failed to turn it off.
The alarm eventually went off while the cops were searching; giving away that stash with 5 phones, a cellmate who stayed back had to shake hands with the cops; parted with $50. For that cop, that’s a good earning, didn’t sweat for it and he’s just doing some community service, helping us keep our communications with our loved ones. I hope my friend will desist from using alarm in prison; the noises is enough alarm to get one from any level of sleep, even someone in coma will wake with the level of noise in the pavilion. At every moment, either someone is having an oral brawl or belting out songs that meant something to him.
“It seems that the necessary thing to do is not to fear mistakes, to plunge in, to do the best that one can, hoping to learn enough from blunders to correct them eventually.” – Abraham Maslow (Motivation and Personality, 1954)
One will definitely need a sleep therapy after time done, can’t remember when I had a proper sleep since my #Lockup. During the search, I was nodding off outside while others were laughing at me, couldn’t help it, needed some eyes closing. Maybe a proper mattress will help while I’m here, mine is pathetic.
After the search and all back to their cells, we found out that, some core cells were targeted, my bunk had a light touch, the books ain’t what they were looking for. They opened all the larger volume-books; as they could be used as stashes, cut deep into the pages, and you have a good stash for phones, tablets, weed or coke.
No water today, but got enough for my laundry. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all delayed as none were allowed outside during the search. But eventually got some of our half-cooked rice and had a lunch-dinner before taking a quick power nap; felt rejuvenated on waking up, should be doing that more often.
It’s 21:55:41 on Fri 18 Oct 2013……
Those who had their phones taken, will probably be making contacts to acquire new ones ASAP; part of being a prisoner in a corrupt situation and society, always replacing things taken or makes contact with someone who knows someone amongst the cops for a fee to retrieve their stuffs.
Everything within the walls of the centre is business, someone definitely got to make profits even from meagre prisoners. Now it’s water; the prison’s tap water which doesn’t work or if it runs is not portable, thus, those that can afford buying portable water does that regularly. But, someone is closing that link, as he/she or they weren’t making much profit from that. Instead, they are selling water in gallons and plastic bottles of 500ml, and at exorbitant prices. Thus, we’re been pushed to the wall, but instead of reacting, with no choice we all bow and bend to where they pushes us to.
I do buy water when I have the means, but I had taken to boiling rain water and sometimes the prison water if it doesn’t come like chocolate or water colour. Whoever is behind the water business is bound to walk to his/her bank smiling as water alongside cigarettes sells like wildfire in the centre.
The aftermath of the search is telling on us, prices of chargers has shot high; as it’s mostly taken during search, too bulky to stash. Mine has survived 3yrs of search; a simple stash is what keeps it out of sight. Sometimes, things, one doesn’t hide are what they won’t see, right at the tip of their noses, they can’t see and won’t see; “The more you look, the less you see”. We always make the cell a bit frustrating to search, things all over, lights out, but then some wicked cops plays the game with us; throwing water all over the cell or emptying containers of cereals, rice all over and nobody questions them; because we’re prisoners and they’ve got the powers.
The search has ended and now comes the negotiations on how to get what was taken, it’s all business as usual, pictures of all that were taken was sent to an inmate (apparently, via telephone, thus, the cops knows he’s got a phone)… And owners of what were taken will have to negotiate, pay and retrieve their seized items; that’s what I call prison business or like a released mate rightly put it ‘monkey business’. Nothing short of cat and mouse game.
01:35:55 on Mon 21 Oct 2013! Weekend ended with a bang, some groups started drinking on Saturday, others joined later on Sunday and as I’m writing, they are still on their weekend benders; music and chattering of who-knows-what they’re gossiping about. Everyone is allowed his moment of madness and insanity; nobody will confront them over the noise, as it could spiralled into something more ugly, sometimes fatal….#PrisonLife
Sunday was superb as we had one of our long-forgotten musical evening; live music from renowned artists who walked the wrong parts and ended up here. First to entertained us with Bachata was a popular Dominican artist, waiting to be extradited to America. Second was a low-profile colombian artist who now sells lottery/raffle, belted out some Spanish ballads, vallenatos that sends chills to hearts of men who had partied and got laid to those tunes.
Like a press conference, many were snapping pictures, others recording the moment to share with their loved ones, others were transmitting live to their women wherever they are. Such moments helps with the stress accumulated on the inside. Finally, our new American/Panamanian from Brooklyn, who gave the lads some Brooklyn flavours with powerful rhymes of hardcore rap vibes. Wasn’t bad, promised downloading some rap instrumentals for him.
Sunday’s evening ended with more Hamburger, which doesn’t move me, I rather stick to what meagre and healthy that comes on the cart.
17:05:24 on Mon 21 Oct 2013!
Up from sleep around 7:30am when my mates started with their daily chattering. Still no water from the authorities, not even the occasionally rainfall. I have one tank of water left, which was what I used to showered and washed my gym clothes; austere life of prisoners. This is worst than doing time with hard labour, at least after work, you get to shower with enough water and also have some to drink.
It’s been a very hot day, don’t even know what came on the lunch and dinner cart, but my mates got me lentils which I had with fried eggs, glad that somebody haven’t thought of hijacking the egg business or put a stop to it, bet when inmates figure out how to smuggle dope ‘n weed through eggs, then will we be eggless 😉
Due to the intensity of my workout today; left me dehydrated, been drinking all day.
20:42:03 Mon 21 Oct 2013 …….. Another bout of rain drizzle, why can’t it just rain the sky down, we need water, supposed to shower as I’m soak in sweat, but doubt if that will be possible, as any water gotten tonight will be kept for tomorrow’s use; such is our lives and plight.
Once inside, we learn to live for each day as it comes, on the inside, one discovers the truth about prison life. Which, like they say “The Truth doesn’t carry with it its own protection of pain.” And that truth is the reality that everyone of us experiences behind these concrete walls.
A prisoner’s life is build around hope and more of it. But sometimes, too much of hoping can be devastating when all come crashing down. Thus, give all you can, but expect little or nothing back!
Our journey through the belly of the beast is like a pilgrim journey; ‘Sometimes you just put one foot in front of the other, even if you don’t know where you’re going.’……..eventually you will get there if only you persist and persevere.
But along the route in this journey that sometimes seems to be endless; one could become entangled with what lurks within the walls and cells of this underworld; #Prison!
Culled this excerpts from an article on the guardian which I find very educating and interesting!
[ ‘The selfishness that prison rubs into your skin’… As experienced by Alan Smith]
In prison; education is a route to self-respect After 14 years teaching philosophy in prison.
There were moments, more and more of them, when I didn’t care about the things that happened, who they happened to. This was the selfishness that prison rubs into your skin.
But in prison, nothing succeeds for everyone; prison is an enormously diverse place. In my classes there were men who were mad, addicted, beyond retirement age. There were men whose intention was to go straight back into crime. There were men who were alienated or simply bewildered. There were of course sensitive, intelligent men who had decided on higher education. So, anyway, good luck with the training.
Alan Smith’s columns on teaching in prison can be found at guardian.co.uk/education/series/philosophy-for-prisoners
That is an experience by an outsider, since my day one in the slammer, I have seen inmate bluntly stand and watch and ignore vulnerable ones amongst us. Sometimes I get mad with the younger lads when I see their older and feeble cellmates struggle with a task. All I get from them; he’s got hands and legs. Upon arrival, I was known as the #RedCross; doling out my medications for free, but these same fellows won’t give or part ways with .50ct. As time goes on, I changed my ways, if we ain’t compatible in any way, I ain’t giving not even a drop of my water.
There’re some lads who are wheeling ‘n dealings and piling up money for their visiting ladies, but they want to live on others; such I scorn and always tell them to their faces to use their money for themselves. Being candid with some people is better than helping them with their cunning lifestyle. Well, at the end, they don’t like you for telling the truth, but who cares?
In prison most of us cover the nakedness of our true intentions with layers of psychic clothing. Our smile disguises a grimace; our laugh chokes a sob. It always take a while to understand the underlying motives of an inmate who suddenly comes closer and want to be friends. Despite the hypocrisy, there are some genuine ones amongst us who will forged real friendship that will live beyond the walls of prisons; #Friends4Life
Religion is supposed to have softening effect on lives of inmates as several studies has shown, but not here; aggressiveness, hatred, back-stabbing, gossip and whatever vices are the norm amongst the thousands who are playing with God’s name. So much hypocrisy; which has caused those who wanted a real change to opt out and back to their old ways. I have witnessed where inmates were fighting over church’s offering/collection; who should have it to solve his problems and later pay back. Well, at the end of the day, this is prison, where crooks and worse of the societies are dumped. Thus, one should expected the unexpected.
Since the night my two cellmates indulged in some lewd act under the cover of darkness, there has been many comings out of closets. The pavilion is such a small place, but so much can happen that one barely know. Right now, I can only vow and speak of me, can’t say a thing about the next man as I freakin don’t know what he’s up to under the cover of darkness. Anyway, whatever my cellmate did with the new lad, I hope they were both protected, so much lurks around and within us. Sharing cups during drinking sessions is something I dread here, I barely get my hair cut as I don’t trust the barbers with their machines and blades; #Hygiene #Sterilisation
Survival in a place like this is mostly through adaptation, improvisation and innovation. One has to be witty and creative to survive in the slammer. Start a business, someone with more money is watching, as soon as he knows the business is profitable, he jumps in and takes over. But the witty part helps, thank God for internet, when I’m in the mood, I get my hands into proper wine-making or baking; which do come out superb.
The pavilion is like a functional-living organism; breathing and alive. We have blacksmiths who are busy makings crude knives and other tools for work or use as weapons when the need arises, the carpenters who turning any wood into stools, chairs, tables, bedside stands and making fences to separate cells boundary. There are the launderettes which takes care of the lazy ones clothes for a fee, shoemakers; once sick and back, uses his proceeds to feed his unhealthy, but sustaining habit, same lad gives life to our weightlifting belts and gloves.
There are tailors, without machines, but can turn every pieces of materials to whatever you want; pillows, pillowcases, bedsheets, curtains to cover one’s bunk for proper privacy; helps those wriggling, shoving and bj’ing to keep their lewd acts out of sight, but not out of mouths, ears and minds.
There are the dealers; keeping our supply line active with whatever the lads need to stay high, sane and functional. Amongst the brewers and distillers, I’m one of them, I prefer turning fruits and fruit juices into wine as brewing with fruit juices and yeast cannot produce methanol. It can only produce ethanol.
I used to distilled and make gin with juniper berries, cinnamon, aniseed and other spices; ingredients gotten online. Had to give that up as I can’t keep up with haggling and roughing inmates to pay up debts. I only brew wine on order; once I get money in my hands, search for ingredients and proceed with a client’s job.
Baking pies seems better as my pie ain’t the fried ones which the latinos are used to; and they seem to love it, despite been expensive than what they always get.
Other bakers are pestering us with all sorts of baked and fried pastries; fried Jamaican dumpling from a Jamaican inmate (apparently, he has stopped as he couldn’t get his debtors to pay him), he now works with a compatriots who sells his fried pastries upstairs by the administration block to staffs, working-inmates and visitors; mostly lawyers.
We have prisoners-turned chefs who are also cooking for some can’t cook ‘n won’t cook inmates, for someone who’s watching his diet, eating from them can be dangerous; salty and high fat content.
There are also several grocers and fruit/vegetables stands; selling whatever comes in, which could be anything between lemon to yam, cassavas, plantain (enough of it), banana, oranges, papaya (one of the pastors hijacked that business), and any fruit that is available.
A professional boxer takes the lads in an early morning boxing classes, I do make it out sometimes, best form exercise for proper kick-ass cardio. I believe some lads, through boxing are discovering something else and positive they could do with their lives; pathetic how the authorities won’t allow in boxing materials, they are not buying them, we’re buying, but they won’t just let them in. If it’s guns and knives, we will have them in thousands.
I also act and function as personal trainer to some group of lads who trains with me; I have to the research and planning for our daily workouts, then instruct them on proper forms and also on supplements if they can afford. In most cases, they rather buy food with what money they have.
The list of businesses goes on and on…. Can’t forget the pharmacist; one is my cellmate, others are copycats; whatever medications one need is available or can be made available by these lads. And finally we have a proper doctor in our midst, Dr. Porter; that crowns it all, in the midst of our juggling with life, someone can always give a proper diagnosis when the body breaks down. Since he came in, our alarm system hasn’t been in use as it used to be; when an inmate falls sick. There’s a ‘Doctor in the house’ who does the bits before things gets out of hands. Glad we have him here NOW!
Wasn’t planning a long blog, but things kept pouring and coming forth; anyway hope it rains tonight as we freakin need water and I want to train tomorrow or later as it’s 01:09:12 on Tue 22 Oct 2013 now!
The wind blowing is cool, thus, a good sign that I might rain tonight, hope it does, but then my cell haven’t gotten enough tanks; we sent about 10 tanks to the locals to be filled (buy water from them), they didn’t return the tanks and no water. Thus, if it rains, we will fill up even our cooking pots and bowls with water.
Gotta call it a night, didn’t nap after my workout and doubt if I will have a long night sleep as my mates are bound to wake up early to get into their lousy chattering.
It’s 4yrs-plus in the belly of the beast; chatted with an Italian inmate who left early this year; due to be release finally after spending couple of months in Italia prison. They call it rehabilitation, but he calls it sh!t as there’s nothing close to rehabilitation there, but lad can’t wait to be out. Goes home every weekend to see his family; relieving!
Many here longs for such moment; till that day, we’re waiting and hoping and gazing into the great expanse of unknown and beyond.
“If you do not hope, you will not find what is beyond your hopes.” – Saint Clement Of Alexandra
“The person in peak-experiences feels himself, more than other times, to be the responsible, active, creating center of his activities and of his perceptions. He feels more like a prime-mover, more self-determined (rather than caused, determined, helpless, dependent, passive, weak, bossed). He feels himself to be his own boss, fully responsible, fully volitional, with more “free-will” than at other times, master of his fate, an agent.” – Abraham Maslow (Toward a Psychology of Being, 1968).