21 August 2017

Shade and Freud, Part Two of Four

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 Read Part One of Four here.

One advantage – there are a scant few of them – that I have over other inmates is speed. I entered the room and within 3 steps I was halfway up the ladder to my bunk, raised above the one-woman fracas.

“I am a bad bitch! I am – baaad motherfuckin bitch!” Keisha sang along with Janet Jackson’s If I Was Your Girl which was blasting lyrics other than those… like “the things I’d do to you”…. into her ears because the song doesn’t include those words.

The shift had changed since I was sitting in the common area. Now it was Suarez, bald with no internal rap because he’s new. A clean inmate.com record made him suspicious to me – no one in prison squeaks like that. When the nurses came in for medline and they opened all the doors, I alighted from the bunk and scurried to the C/O’s desk.

“Mr. Suarez, I don’t know  if you heard what’s going on here…”

“I did,” he said as he shrugged. He didn’t give a fuck.

“And there’s nothing you can do?”

“I gotta witness what she’s doing,” he said from a desk that’s mere feet away from her screaming. “I can’t just send her to seg.”

“I’m not asking for that,” I explained, but I guess his response was justifiable since so many women here don’t seek to avoid trouble as much as they want to cause it for someone else and watch them suffer. Seg isn’t about security; it’s about schadenfreude. But not for me, so I was blunt:

“I just don’t want to live with her anymore. Move me – anywhere.”

“If she starts her shit again, hit the buzzer and I’ll come over,” he offered.

“Yeah, except I’m staying up on my bunk and the button is down by the door. You want me to come down near her to press it? Besides she’ll just stop doing what’s she’s doing and you won’t have the evidence you say you need.”

“So, then, if she starts again when you go back in, walk back and forth in front of the window and I’ll see you and beep in so I can hear what she’s doing, ‘kay? Catch her in the act.”

“Alright,” I said, like I had another choice.

And when I went back in, Keisha was praying at the window:

“Dear God, please help me kill dis bitch to make (sic) her dead, real dead…”

As she prayed, I paced, back and forth, over a four-foot span, passing the five-inch window like some asshole duck in a shooting gallery. If I appeared in that window once, I appeared maybe 300 times. Step, step. Pivot. Step, step. Pivot…for about 20 minutes as she tore through various prayers. And Suarez never looked up. Not once. I swear, I swear he was smiling.

Then, when divinity seemed insufficient, Keisha went to the sink, opened my toothpaste, stretched her arm out, rotated her wrist 180 degrees and squeezed a long, taffy-like drop to the floor.

Step. “Keisha, don’t!” I warned her from my gallery. Step. Pivot.  “I can’t order another for 5 days and I won’t get it for another seven. And I have teeth. So cut the shit.”

And at the next Pivot, a woman easily twice my size was coming at me.

I’m dead. Real dead.

But all she did was press her palm against my upper cheek and push it slightly, with a twist.  Her size made me think that Keisha could pack a wallop, but she can’t even pack a toothbrush. If all fights are like that, I can take all comers.

But I won’t.

“That’s it!” I screamed and swung my hand in that horizontal chop that always tells people that whatever’s happening is about to end real quick. The doors opened for rec[reation] and I barged out of the room.

“Suarez, she just put her hand on my face. Move me, please, alright? I want to be moved. There’s no reason for me to have to endure this when I have to go to work in the morning.”

“Can’t move you without calling an L.T.,” he said, like this was some insurmountable barrier.

“Suarez, alls I did was mush the bitch in the face,” Keisha added from behind me. According to inmate.com, mushing is an official fighting move. You put your hand on someone’s face and push in a rotating manner. I never knew this.

“Fine, call,” I huffed. “I mean, may I impose upon you to call a lieutenant?” is how I corrected my tune and lyrics. Suarez picked up the receiver.

Within minutes, Lieutenant Potash swashbuckled through the door, wry smile between his hunched shoulders and his I-just-fell-off-the-set-of-Anchorman mustache. Like he had won. Like this was expected. Violence could have been predicted earlier and, in fact, was. But doesn’t that make me the winner? That I was right all along?

“So, what happened?” Potash asked as squared his hips in a power stance.

“The same thing that’s been happening all day. I don’t care if she goes to seg. If I can just move, so I can sleep, that’s all I’m asking for.”

“Well, that’s not fuckin’ happening,” he decided.

“So I’m required to go back in the cell with her?”

“Nope. You reported violence so you’re gonna be seen by medical. Baskin here will take you over,” and he jerked a thumb at the guard who used to call another cellmate out of the room every time he worked third shift. She would disappear upstairs for an hour for no reason whatsoever. That’s no rumor.

“I’m not hurt. It was nothing. She didn’t hit me. It was just a mush. That’s what they call it, right? A mush?”

Potash just stared at me.

“Alright….Wait, why do I need to be escorted?” I asked, because I was never in on the game. Or its goal.

Check back next Monday for Part Three of Four. 

THREE IDEAS IN JUSTICE REFORM FROM AUGUST 14 – 20, 2017

Orange County Superior Court Judge Judge Thomas Goethals reads a portion of his ruling which takes the death penalty off the table for confessed killer Scott Evans Dekraai, 47, because he concluded law enforcement would not ensure the defendant a fair penalty trial, on Friday, August 18, 2017 in Santa Ana. Dekraai pleaded guilty to killing eight people and wounding another in an October 2011 shooting spree at a Seal Beach salon. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

This is huge: a judge ordered the death penalty off the table for a defendant in a mass murder case because prosecutors and sheriffs had engaged in misconduct. Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals said for him to ignore the misconduct – which included shredded documents, jailhouse informants used illegally to get confessions, deputies who lied on the witness stand, deputies who pleaded the Fifth in court so they wouldn’t be charged with perjury – in the case against Scott Dekraai who shot 8 people, including his ex-wife, in a hair salon in 2011 would be “unconscionable, even cowardly.” In prosecuting this defendant, the state ended up saving him because their actions were so dishonest. This development does raise another question of how far a prosecuting team has to go into misconduct for an entire case to be thrown out.

All Florida prisons were locked down last week, indefinitely, because the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March that was planned for – and occurred on – Saturday, 900 miles away in Washington, DC, would cause unrest among the 97,000 inmates within the facilities; the Department of Corrections said it had credible threats to security within. The March received not one mention in mainstream media, so it likely didn’t deliver the millions it advertised. This reveals a lot about the nature of prison lockdowns. The Department of Correction kept almost 100,000 people locked inside small cells for days because a non-event was happening a large distance away. Supposedly, the lockdown/shakedown netted some weapons and cell phones but that’s standard for Florida prisons. Totally unfair and counterproductive, this was not a safety measure but a show of non-physical force.

“I am seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio,” President Trump told Fox News, talking about the controversial Arizona sheriff recently convicted of ignoring a federal judge’s orders to stop racial profiling. Arpaio was one of the biggest supporters of Trump’s plans to crack down on immigration.  The ACLU says a pardon would be “an official presidential endorsement of racism.” As far as I’m concerned, because Arpaio was notorious for humiliating inmates, he’s made himself ineligible for any mercy, especially since the maximum sentence he’s facing is six months, in a federal facility that never suffered his management. He’ll be fine no matter what.

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14 August 2017

Shade and Freud, Part One of Four

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One thing that overcrowds every prison is unsubstantiated rumor. It can be about someone, anyone in here. They call this virtual – and sometimes downright ignorant – grapevine “inmate.com,” I guess because we can make the dumbest stuff go viral pretty quickly, even though no one ever clicks a mouse – or knows what they’re talking about. For accurate facts, this wire is for the birds.

Whenever tittle-tattle reaches my eardrums, much of it sounds outlandish, if not for its content, then its accessibility. How would inmates ever know this stuff about other people from the outside?  I mean, I’m the only one in here who does research and it’s not about this nonsense. I can’t fathom how these facts smuggle themselves inside this place.

Despite my disdain for it, inmate.com has created for me a new motto, words I doubted I would ever utter, especially since my standards on evidence became more stringent after my trial: I have no idea if that’s true, but I believe it. I am becoming an uncritical thinker, which would make me a match for Keisha, my cellmate.

We were assigned to the handicapped room that is isolated from the tiers and close to the staff desk. The handicapped room was apropos for Keisha. She screams and shakes people down for junk food and then break into a dance routine. She cries herself into hysterical laughter. Freud wouldn’t have a field day with her; he’d shit in his diaper and cry for his mother, two things I myself was on the verge of doing with her.

When Keisha moved in, I knew she was here for stabbing another woman in the chest and puncturing her lung (she lived) but scuttlebutt was that she was a prostitute on the streets who’d murdered a number of johns to get the remainder of their money, a la Eileen Wournos. I will say just this: I believe it.

In her past sentences, because Keisha’s had many, she’d pummeled guards, spit at them. She wants to brawl with all.  It’s almost like it’s her default mode. If she says: “I will kill a bitch” once, then she says it ten times a day.

Naturally, she believes everything she heard on inmate.com.

When her anger officially turned on me, it was because I had refused her an extra egg in the breakfast line. They aren’t mine to give away.  So she did the only reasonable thing and threatened to kill me to the girl assigned to distribute the juice cups who reported it, which I never thought was a bad idea. One of the good guys, C/O Roman, wanted to lock Keisha up but a ludicrous lieutenant, Booz, refused to sign off on it.

The buzz on Booz was that he was losing his house because he was underwater on a subprime mortgage, some peculiar dirt because these guys certainly earn enough. But, given how much of a dick Booz is, I believe it.

Yet another supervisor, Lieutenant Smith, stood by as Booz was listening to what happened.

“Why don’t the two of you just bang out back in the room?” Smith asked me, his overly intricate facial hair shape-up reminding me that I am not at home here. No man I have ever met would try to turn his facial hair into art.

“I don’t bang,” I said flatly.

Smith is new so there’s no intel on him but I don’t need any.

Then, throughout the rest of the day, as Keisha intermittently threatened me and threw her plastic bowls at me in a cell merely feet away from the C/O’s desk where they could hear everything and see something, one guard would peer in our 5-inch window and ask her, after losing every trace of the tough-guy schtick he uses with behaved inmates:

“Please calm down.”

She didn’t.

So they pulled me out of the cell, told me to sit at one of the four-man tables in the housing unit’s lobby.

CTO Walters [Correction Treatment Officer] came in, one half of his backpack slung over his shoulder as he departed for the day.

He’s supposedly a bodybuilder who’s show name is “Chocolate Thunder” but he seems more to me like an apple with legs. The unsubstantiated rumor about him is that he moonlights by posing, either nude or close to it, for women’s calendars.

“Umm, excuse me, Inmate Bozelko. Why are you out of your cell?” he sing-songed at me.

“The C/O’s told me to sit here because, well, my roommate is kind of wilding in there,” I answered him and pointed to the handicapped room.

“Who’s your roommate?”

“Keisha D.”

“Oh boy. Oh Lord. All of this drama is making my uterus hurt. Please!” he yelled at me. And to the guard at the desk:

“Listen, DO NOT let her back in there because, if anything happens, if she (pointed to cell) does anything to her (points to me), we are liable.”

He then put on his shades and fled fast, uterus, backpack and all. I will never be able to prove it, but I swear, I swear he was smiling as he left.

Lieutenant Potash must have passed Walters on the walkway because he came in so soon after the walking uterus left. Potash is all thunder and no chocolate. Unsubstantiated stuff about him is that he had undergone severe discipline for allegedly using his DOC badge to make obscene citizens’ arrests of regular citizens, one he normally couldn’t get his hands on. Supposedly he was acting like a legit cop, pulling over women who were driving but subjecting them to bizarre questions and searches. I don’t know if it’s true, but I totally believe it.  If you saw his hunchbacked anger, 80’s-style glasses frames and acidic attitude, you’d believe it, too.

Whenever I think of this story about Potash, I laugh hysterically and think: These DOC dudes kill me with their craziness.

“Bozelko, what’re you doing out of your cell?” Potash boomed at me.

“The C/O’s told me to sit out here because my roommate is out of control.”

“Yeah, well, it’s about to be count time so get the fuck back in there or go to seg,” Potash yelled, like I had asked to hang out with the staff or wasn’t following their orders.

Now I thought: These DOC dudes are going to kill me with their craziness as I pulled the curved metal plate that served as my cell door handle and walked back inside where Keisha was dancing in her underwear to music piped into her ears from my radio and headphones.

For Part Two of Four, click here.

THREE IDEAS IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE FROM AUGUST 7 – 13, 2017

A vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them. /The Daily Progress via AP)

Taylor Lorenz, tech reporter for The Hill, reported that Charlottesville police officers suspected that James Alex Fields, Jr. wasn’t malicious in his intent when he plowed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of protestors in at the “Unite the Right” rally on Saturday. The cops who talked to Lorenz claimed Fields was scared because people were acting violent around his car and he panicked. Their chief, Al Thomas, said at a press conference that Fields’ actions were “premeditated.” I don’t know how you view that but, from my experience, police don’t usually sympathize with a murder suspect or explain his actions in a quasi-exculpatory way to a reporter, especially when the viral video of the crime shows he floored it into people who were actually a good distance away from his car. My guess is that there are some Alt-Right cops down in Charlottesville.

Before President Donald Trump failed to condemn the attacks adequately and instead tried to say that “all sides” were responsible for a terrorist’s ramming his car into a crowd of people, the Cato Institute reminded us that you don’t need to have committed a crime to be impeached. Read their explanation here.

The difference between jurisdictions on what constitutes a larceny is startling, so startling that I’m sure that shoplifters target certain places that define the crime in the most generous way. For instance, for a larceny to become a felony in Connecticut, the value of the item(s) stolen has to be more than $1000. The same misdemeanor/felony threshold in Florida is $300. If you were going to steal, where would you do it? Don’t think people are above long-distance travel to commit crimes we usually dismiss as minor and simply short-sighted. One of my cellmates drove from Connecticut to Pennsylvania because she thought the penalties for larceny were less severe there and she had heard she could find more malls to hit than she could at home. In case you’re wondering, she got caught down in the Keystone State but didn’t get sentenced to term of imprisonment like she did up here.

 

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7 August 2017

Everything I Wrote in Seg

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Above photo is from the traveling “Inside the Box” exhibit which featured a 10-foot-by-12-foot replica solitary confinement cell. This cell is based on one from Wisconsin but it could easily be one I stayed in. In Connecticut, no pencils are allowed anymore in segregation, so for the 75 days (aggregate) I spent in there, I wrote nothing except when I was supervised  to write legal mail with a pencil I had to give back. It’s part of the punishment to be beckoned by that blankness and not be able to do anything about it.

THREE IDEAS IN CRIME AND JUSTICE FROM JULY 31 – AUGUST 6, 2017

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Yeah, the Trump-Russia grand jury was formally announced, Martin “PharmaBro” Shkreli was convicted on three of eight counts against him and Michelle Carter, the teenager who texted her boyfriend encouragement for his suicide, was sentenced to 15 months’ incarceration.

But that’s just old news, continued. More important stories emerged last week, I think.

The Chris Christie-led panel issued an interim set of proposals Monday designed to fight the nation’s opioid crisis. Members unanimously urged the president to eliminate barriers to Medicaid coverage (which would mean keep the Affordable Care Act, not repeal it), make more naloxone available to more drug users, and to provide more training for doctors.  The panel also wants to expand “Good Samaritan” laws protecting those who report overdoses. The recommendations are everything the Trump Administration isn’t about.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions gets most of his policy ideas for the Department of Justice – policies like returning to mandatory minimum sentencing, resurrecting civil asset forfeiture – from the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety. The problem is that one knows exactly who’s on it.

More than half of the mayoral candidates in Detroit are ex-offenders. The mayoral primary, which will be held Tuesday, August 8th, will determine the two final candidates, regardless of party affiliation. It’s unlikely, but theoretically possible, that Detroit would have to choose between two candidates, each convicted of felonies, to lead the city.

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