Prisoners And Religion: A Fatal Combo

“The purpose of religion is to control yourself, not to criticise other.” – Dalai Lama

The variability of perceptual experience from one occasion to the next, and from person to person, raised the worry that the eyes are an unfaithful witness to the world around us. This is because such variability suggests that perceptual experience is as much determined by our own minds as it is by the things we view. #Religion #ReligiousDiversity

It been a long while I publish one of my prison blog. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t news or vibes around and amongst these men sequestered away from civilisation and left to fate and elements to transform or destroy them – The Prison Experience.

The prison system is like a kaleidoscope but changes constantly with the players therein, whom,  despite living like hamsters running around its friggin wheel, prisoners are constantly  changing to adapt and adopt to the intense prison life.  I’ve coined out a saying from my experience here and it’s been what has kept me going “Do the time and don’t let the time do you” – if prison times does one, he’s bound to walk out (if he survives) more fucked up than when he was hauled in; something I’ve seen happened to many prisoners.

Expressions on our faces might look similar; sometimes, one barely understand himself and his own feelings. But, deep down inside our hearts, full of bitterness which are coated and coded in our expressions, each man try to man up and pull a brave face, but deep inside many feels the impact of failure or failures for those that won’t stop coming back – they just friggin love it here – aren’t they? #Pheeeeew! Not easy to break off from the chains of the vicious circle.

Like a kaleidoscope so are our faces; keep changing and can be very deceptive! One can’t tell the heart of a prisoner, not until he spills out its contents, which can be heartening.

The prison system is a world on wheels, moving at a snail’s speed, but moves with life, one that can also tak one’s life along into oblivion. Faces – to a prisoner means so much, it tells tales that are unwritten and some unspoken, silence tales of servitude and hard-knock life. The old faces gradually fades away from our population as new ones are hauled in to take their places. But, some old face like mine lingers on, waiting for it’s day to come. One will hope for a dwindling population, but with every newbie hauled in, our numbers kept rising, more or less a replica of the world’s own problem; overpopulation which almost every part of the world is facing now. Illegal immigrants perishing in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach ‘paradise’, those who succeed and made it through Italy are camped in Calais, North of France with hope of crossing into the UK.

Meanwhile, we have learnt to manage our population problem, no matter how many are hauled in, there will always be a place for them, both in our hearts and on the floor, even in thin air (hammock can float like flying carpets here). Hope the world learn from us, how we managed to fit in over six hundred prisoners in a tiny space built for 216 prisoners.

So much has happened and more are expected to happen since my last blog post. Target killings, prison gangs war (mostly amongst the locals), prison love, treachery amongst leaders and finally the exodus that got us shaken to our cores 😉

Deals gone wrong could get one snuffed out and pretty cheap to do it from the inside – prison all over the world see this happening daily. But the brutality of the Panamanian gangs knows no bounds, a proper liquidation is always administered to enemies, sometimes with several collateral damages.

One incident that happened right under the ‘supposedly’ watchful eyes of armed cops in front of our pavilion; a foreign prisoner from pavilion eight was stabbed several times by locals right outside our pavilion. Police couldn’t and didn’t intervened – Prison gangs policy – cops comes in after the action and not before or during the action. There were rumours the lad died, but we later heard he survived and is hospitalised and finally, we heard it was a case of mistaken identity (even prisoners high in joint sent on mission do make grave error). The target was an inmate who was released that same day, he had walked past the would-be assassins, and they high on joint didn’t recognised the picture they had received, but ended doing another fella who bear resemblance with the freed lad – Así es la vida! And also another reason, I prefer sticking to my pavilion where I can walk around with my eyes closed; friggin joking 😉 wouldn’t even dream of that, if it’s possible to sleep with my eyes wide open, will friggin do it 😉

Amongst us foreign inmates, fights rarely happens, as our unwritten rules are here to guide us, but when it does happen, it can be very fatal and a free-for-all fight. There was one between two Mexicans whom their compatriots allowed them the rare pleasure to vent out their anger on each other and that was what they did; fought mano-a-mano until they got tired 😉 and then rest their cases, after the fight, they became once again true compatriots 😉

There’s been several fights, most lasting few seconds due to interventions of others (the locals won’t interven, they’d rather see blood drawn). Most of the fights are over debts, or thefts. This is prison where criminals, and innocents are slammed in together irrespective of one’s case; both the sentenced and those on remand are hauled in together without segregation. And, in the  case of Panama as I’ve come to understand, many individuals locked up, are in for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

When there’s any fight in the pavilion, many will have idea what the brawl is all about; Phones, flipflops, money, phone chargers and even earphones are some of the things the lads steal to resell for quick bucks in order to fund whatever keeps them going. As lousy and stupid as they are, they always steal from their mates; those they are closed to 😉 . Few incidents in the past, group of inmates drinking together, and one has his phone pinched by his drinking mates, before he realised what has happened, the phone is in the underground market or sent out to the locals (who pay less for anything from here) or for a better deal to pavilion eight where the foreign inmates there are like us or even richer than us ;-), as all the shemales are sent there; they pay to get them sent to them. Heard from a mate there, the lads are fighting each other over ass possession 😉

A young lad who was released and later came back and whom another inmate tried ‘shoving’ from behind after a night of seriously binge drinking nicked his mate’s phone. He was caught when he tried sending it outside to the locals; another pal of his ratted him out – don’t trust fellow criminals – ‘No Honour Amonsgt Crooks’ 😉

The lad was kicked out of the pavilion, now locked up with the locals in a sort of cubicle under the administration building. I saw him on my way to school, he asked me to tell his mate to send down his phone. On getting in and delivered his message, I was told that his stuffs have been sent through one of the gay lad working upstairs. Eventually, we found out the lass sold the phone for $130 and has used up the money. Another round of punches, but the lass ran into his cell, with promises of paying back; he friggin blew $100 bucks within 24hours! Probably he paid the young lads to love him or? Wouldn’t want to go further – whatever he does is his ‘Sh!t’. But spending 100 bucks a day here, what the heck was he thinking or what was he on?. Anyway, he got enough punches and I heard the lad promised sending the locals to come for his money, the lad won’t like it when they come.

Other fights in the pavilion have always been with the same group of people; smoking, drinking and gambling partners or the big lads – those like Lord Sewel, the top British politician who was filmed snorting and smooching putas ;-), he’s got some peers here who does just ‘white lines’ – big boys powder! And screws our cheap nightly cheerleader (that’s how our only shemale dresses) .

Meanwhile prison politics is in full swing for those interested and making profits by involvement.

The lives of many prisoners revolves around whatever that keeps them functional and also helps with survival of what lurks around the building and inside our hearts.

Many tend to clinched to religion, despite their allegiance to prison gangs; God will understand 😉

The two faiths that are prominent amongst us; Catholic (also in Latin America) and Evangelical, imported from America and also exported failed drug war policies to same latin America; operation Fast and Furious in Mexico 😉 and has also taught Panama to love and practice mass incarceration – Prison industrial complex – bound to fail like it’s failing in America. #POTUS himself confirmed that, the American Prison system is a total failure, too late for any change.

The two churches are vying for presence and impact amongst prisoners and officials. Too bad no prisoner can become a priest as there are so many hurdles involved, but many and everyone can become a pastor or ‘Servio’ as they are called here – and win the hearts of everyone, especially the officials and cops. That their statuses are now enhance and elevated; they can move around and make decisions, that override those of the director. The prison gangs will only communicate and listen to thsee prisoner-pastors – funny heh!

The group of pastors from all the pavilions makes up the pastor council or whatever they call themselves, maybe council of churches will make a good name for them. They sit and decide what goes on around and within the pavilions. And sometimes and most times their decisions are final. There was a time a prisoner-pastor was caught smuggling knives from pavilion to pavilion, well, wouldn’t say that’s part of the missionary work he’s supposed to be doing or?

Others are also involve in ‘wheeling and dealing’, since they are always upstairs, they get the fattest worms, whatever comes in, they hustle their way through, buying and selling to us that are not opportune to be out there – for many of us, our daily lives will begin and end right in the confinement of our cells, others will make out to the gambling table or to back of the cells to blow joints or snort some white lines, for me and other die-hard gym addict; two or three hours away does and bring about a great deal of relief the torturing life and experience faced each day.

The pastor in my pavilion unlike the locals whom most are ex gang members is a subtle, gentle old lad, soft spoken and a man who pride himself as a man of the cloak – apparently, he became a pastor after he was hauled in, took over the previous one upon his release, but eventually is back, but can’t take over as pastor, he will probably wait till his successor leaves. But the old one is still active and also does his things; pastor business 😉

The prisoner-pastors might not drive flashy cars or live in glass mansions, but they do have their way of living larger than most of us – have seen our pastor with several apple products and his latest is a iPad air, arranges merchandise for my old grocer-cellmate, it’s always favours which seems to come from every corner; the cops wants something from you before letting you out for exercise outside, the old haggard ladies and the younger ones who seems to paint their faces like Japanese geishas in the offices wants money before they look into your file, and the wardens aren’t left out, they want money before they take you upstairs for an appointment. The worse, to get access to medicine, one has to pay through his teeth or buy from the locals who are constantly nicking from the unstaffed clinic. At the end of it, it’s business as usual, someone lose is another’s profit. You are either an active placyer or a dormant spectator.

The pastor association is so strong within the prison system as they have now become the mouthpiece of prisoners. Majority, if not all of them are in the church business as they would be in gangs, it’s an horizontal move from one that look unconvincing to one that easily fools anyone and everyone 😉 #TheChurch!

As news of transfer to the new and unfinished prison looms on, everyone was thrown into uncertainty, well, life behind bars has always been swimming in uncertainties. But this one took us by our balls, as one after another were plucked out from amongst and sent to the new prison. Meanwhile, the new prison has no ventilation system, no electric outlets in the cells to plug in fans or reading lamps and also charge phones ;-), well the last is the most important as it’s one reason we could live through this hell.

While my thought about the transfer wasn’t different from those of other prisoners, I cried my heart out as I will be missing my books; I’ve gradually built a library of ‘very good’ books, mostly reference books which I always refer to when the need arises. With novels, once I’m done, I pass them on to others who will read, sometimes I end up seeing some lying in the passage with pages torn, either to be use as butt for joints or someone who want to scribble telephone numbers. Well, what can I do, I guess nada!

As the news of the transfer heat on, so also was the tension amongst us, many were on the brink of sending their phones outside, and for those of us without families here, I guess we might as well shove our phones behind and take them along ;-), well, it hasn’t come to that, as I heard, some locals in La Joyita that were surprised and taken out chose to destroy all their properties before leving, smart criminals 😉 , and that’s they only time they acted smart, as cops went back to pavilion scavenging and looting whatever they could find; hungry Panamanian cops, the country is in a sorry state.

While most of us were bracing for the transfer, the two most importan prisoners in our pavilion were making their #BailOut plans; pathetic that the two men many looked up to were bailing out secretly. It simple tells what prison, prison politics, prison religion and also justified the saying “there’s no honour amongst thieves” or amongst #prisoners.

The two prisoners who planning bailing out to pavilion eight, as we heard inmates in pavilion eight won’t be transferred; were no other, but our President; done several stint here, always coming back to his former bed and cell; he built it, guess that’s why he always choose to come back to the comfy of his bunk. And the second person who was secretly negotiating with his counterpart in pavilion eight to look for a place for him when that time comes is our resident pastor; the small soft-spoken fella, he and the president had laid down their plans to move. But has things will be, the moved is delayed as the new prison itself is not ready to receive huge numbers of prisoners; there’s no air conditioning, public telephones, groceries, and the cells are not well segregated as the government lied; gangs are mixed, meaning foreigners will be mixed with the locals; not a good idea.

A local news media just published the first shocking tale of what’s happening inside the new mega prison in Panama.

Reports of stabbing, rape and #PrisonGangs fights breaking out in the new prison; which Martinelli’s and now Varela’s flaunt as the most secured prison ever – what a clown they are 😉 . Isn’t it pathetic, they couldn’t control the gangs here, and in the new prison, they still can’t keep them under control; thier idea of control is simply keeping #prisoners under #Lockup #Lockdown!

It simply tells how corrupt the system is; yet, donors from The West are still pumping in money into panama to help fight crime, but indirectly ended up fattening politicians bank accounts and their waistlines  😉 .

How did knives, guns, drugs, grenades and other weapons get into the new fortified prison? If not for corrupt police officers who are also the ones smuggling them into the old prison, prisoners won’t get them. A leopard can’t wash off its spots; corruption runs and flows through the veins of everyone here in panama – from the top right to the bottom feeders 😉

Meanwhile, tension brewed seriously high amongst my fellow inmates, my only fear and angst was what I will do with my books and some of my training gears; those that were picked out to the new prison, were only allowed 2 pairs of short, a pair of long trousers, 2 flip-flops, a pair of sneakers/trainers and 2 underwear. Not that the system has special uniforms or clothes waiting for them, not even bedsheets or pillows. They weren’t to take their fans, water heater, spoons (plastic or metals), toothbrushes we buy right inside were broken into two parts, so they couldn’t be fashioned into weapons #Shanks! , well, the lads wouldn’t need weapons made from toothbrushes when there are proper arsenals of proper firepower and armoury in the new prison 😉 friggin logical!

While everyone prepared and waited for whatever is coming, our two leaders were seriously planning of going AWOL; the president of the pavilion and the Pastor of the pavilion, were both busy making arrangements with their buddies in pavilion eight, so if the inevitable happen they will move over to that pavilion. Had always thought that the captain will be the last man standing, the last man to evacuate his sinking ship – Naaaaaah! Not with prisoners, all are traitors, cowards and true to the saying “There’s no honour amonsgt thieves” (Prisoners) – everyman is on his own, and that’s has been my modo operandi – my surviving tactics, have friends but don’t keep them, play at distance and play safe. Have seen several cat plays in the gym turned into proper fights that has to be stopped before bloodletting – #PrisonViolence

Eventually, deals were reached after the government realised that the new prison isn’t ready to receive and accommodate the thousands of inmates they had planned. Former president, Martinelli rushed through the construction as a political strategy to win the election and claimed the construction cost US$125M, but ended up leaving an uncompleted project for Varela whom his prodigy lost bitterly to 😉 #DirtPolitics.

Deals reached, we were eventually given permit to repair our pavilion, which will cost us inmates, thousands of dollars. Isn’t it crazy that prisoners have to build and renovate their own prison at their cost and we aren’t working or being paid. We’ve been levied to pay for the total cost of the repairs, welding work, painting, and washing, even the plumbing jobs – and all materials are bought and paid for by inmates. The government don’t just give a damn – once that door is locked, they are as good as gold!

Now that we’ve been allowed some time, our president decided to get back into their respective offices. For the president, there wasn’t much hassles as his men are the ones in the executive committee – smart lad ;-), he just continued as if nothing had happened.

It wasn’t that easy with the pastor, as he was called into the inner caucus of Prisoner-pastors; meeting upon meeting were held, and at every meetings, drinks and light refreshments were consumed, money from the church purse 😉

He was eventually punished, asked to step down as pastor of the pavilion, while the former pastor who returned after a break on the outside took over his job. Part of his punishment was daily fasting from 6am to 6pm each day, and he’s barred from going upstairs to the administration block; as that’s where the real deal is – businesses are forged in those tiny airconditioned offices with those lazy-lousy women who are always shaky when too much men surrounds them 😉

It shows are deceptive everything can be once they are practised within the wall of prisons.

Many prisoners have asked me why I don’t practice organised religion inside prison, my response to them has always been the same; I’ve been here long enough to see what goes on inside here, I’m better off with my personal relationship with God! Period!

The same so-called ‘servio’ or men of god as they call themselves or “Hermano” are constantly in fights over flimsiest issues that one can easily brush off – but not these lads. They believe everything should be solve through violence. Since most if not all don’t read, their vocabulary bank are very limited, they are short of words for any given situation to us; thus, words we frequently hear are words of insults and provocations. And for the churchgoers, it’s only “Dios Bendica” “Hermano” “Baron” “Biblia Dice” 🙂

I guess this is were prison education should come, books for prisoners, reading clubs amongst inmates should be introduced. Proper rehabilitation should be enforced just as archaic punishment has been enforced on prisoners.

But the authorities and power that be, ones who runs the system won’t benefit from empty prison cells, thus, they won’t be doing anything to stop reoffending, and recidivism to cut the numbers of mass incarceration.

At the end, one comes to a conclusion; like every multinationals and internationally affiliated corporation, prison is just another industrial complex for profit making. Someone or group of persons are definitely benefiting from mass incarceration as locking people doesn’t reduce crime rate; instead the bad guys are just taken away from the scene and kept for a while, waiting to return and pick up from where they were stopped.

Meanwhile, it’s been fiesta upon fiesta as many went about with their life and do what they have been doing since they were hauled in to keep them smiling while doing tiem. Talking of hauling – more and more are thrown into the pavilion, well, there’s always a space for one more on the floor; on Friday, 7th Aug, Nine were hauled in and seven sent to pavilion eight, those thrown in here were mostly Brazilians. I hope they will enjoy their journey here and maybe teach us how to samba 😉 . There’s a compatriot of theirs that will show them around. It’s always nice when one has a friend in prison to help him upon the hauling in ;-), another spaniard was also thrown in, saw the old lad moving amonsgt the numbers. Hope he blends in soon. There’re quite a handful of Spaniards here waiting to be repatriated; one has a hernia the size of apple hanging on his waistline, friggin look like a talisman 😦 .

Just found out the young Brazilian is gone; there’s so much faces here, that I’m losing count and faces. At least I still know the old ones and those who turns up in the gym every now and then.

More on our pastor who was about to jumped ship; he’s been demoted or dethroned, and now becomes a bit of backbencher in the church he once wailed absolute power. In prison, the church, especially the evangelical church commands such power that the authorities hear them first before critical decisions about the lives of prisoners are taken; can’t they friggin see these men were once crooked and crooks who are trying to buy time off their sentences and bailout. Well, they can fool the authorities not me as 6 years behind bars has taught me quite a lot.

Now, the old pastor has lost all privileges and the new one who was caught while attempting to jump bail and sneaked into Colombia, hauled back to continue with his case; more than eleven years without trials, all in his case are all gone, principal suspect Rayo Montaña apparently has Brazilian citizenship, thus, Brazil won’t extradite him to panama. That case should have collapsed since 2005/6 but they kept it open and banged up people without trials. Finally, released after 7- 8 years! #WastedYears!

The catholic really has no power as they scream and use instruments; everything they do is done in silence. Not the evangelicals who are up all night praying down heaven, but with knives in their pants like the lads in Pavilion 5; one will confused that pavilion for a church, services are held daily there, but hasn’t changed who and what they are or were meant to be, or what they set out to become.

It will take real pragmatic rehabilitation and tangible programme to get those lads out of crime; they gotta learn how to read and work. Seen many in my pavilion, the only book they read is the Bible ;), I do read the Bible, but gotta get me ready for the outside world – reality! I read anything that I know I will make use of once I’m back home.

Meanwhile, another incident in the evangelical church got me laughing. 😉 – one of the old leaders broke away and started his own church based on his school of thought or ideology; he’s got a cellmate of his who claimed he was a pastor in Venezuela before getting into moving tons of Angel Dust (maybe the angels told him to move some holy dust).

Anyway, they worked on our little pond which always served as our water reservoir when it rains and there’s no water in the pavilion; many depend on it for water to flush toilets. They cemented the pond and cleaned it up, made it look like a jacuzzi ;-), though without the bubbles ;).

When I asked a mate who’s the only christian here as he practice what he reads; he told me the stories of the lads, they have their own sets of beliefs, which is different from the mother church. Since they can’t get to agree, they broke up and started their fellowship, and they are gaining membership amongst the inmates population. Prisoners need religion, but they also need to be rehabilitated.

They have now made the pond their baptismal pool ;-), I’m waiting to see who will be their first convert to be baptised in the pond.

Well, we all have a way of doing time; to them, they choose that, I hope it helps them. But from experience, and what I have seen with the locals, they all end up returning upon release and once back, they pick up their old Bible and continue from where they stopped. Got my wondering if they were arrested like Paul and Silas for preaching the word of God on the streets and hauled back to prison 😉 Naaaaaaaah! They went back to their old vices, dust and oiled their guns, and went about gangs-banging! That’s what happens if the authorities won’t break the vicious circle which these lads are entangled in! #Crime #Prison #Freedom and back to the beginning #Crime!

From my perspective, religion is good, if we take it as moral guide to guide us as we walk the earth and live with each other. One man’s religion should never be used to enforced rules on another; which becomes fanatical and leads to rebellion. I have seen many of my evangelical inmates buddies argue with the catholic lads; it’s always war without an end 😉

For now, we continue with our time as each new day filled with mysteries unfold itself to us; but then, nothing that happens in prison is new or has never happened before. It’s always history repeating itself – Dè Javu!

Making The Best Of A Bad Situation :

You’re standing at a crossroads and you don’t know which way to go. Do you wait for the direction to become apparent, or do you make a choice and go one way, knowing that every step could be taking you further and further away from where you want to go?

I have learned that no matter what kind of distraction came up. I had to refocus immediately on what I was doing.

Thriving under pressure is all about locking into an incredible, intense focus. You have to be in control all the time, even when everything around you is chaotic.

When things take a turn for the worse, it can be hard to fight off the wave of frustration that washes over you.

The best way to pull through such moment is hyperfocused and concentrate what is coming on next on my agenda.

No matter how bad the day before was, learn to accept failures, mistakes and learn from them and move on.

It’s all about what happens today than what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow!

Wie geen fouten maakt, maakt meestal niets – #ervaring #Gevangenis #mindsetofaprisoner

No law should be more harmful than the behaviour it is trying to regulate; either in term of punishment or correction. #PrisonExperience #SurvivingPrison #prisonersdillema #massincarceration.

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