I wanted to share some of my experiences from when I was incarcerated. I don't consider myself a typical person from the suburbs. I was able to find some kind of common ground with everyone. This lead to different events that I saw unfold, as well as the opportunity to hear some pretty interesting stories, that I would now like to tell you. Keep in mind, some names will be changed to protect the identities of the story teller. I doubt they have any open cases still, but I'd rather be safe than sorry.
My first week locked up was interesting. After I was processed for pleading guilty to several DUI's, I went into the Davidson County Jail.
They had told me that DOC (Department of Corrections) was going to pick me up based on the amount of time I had. I was very happy about this. This made the thought of the week in the windowless jail tolerable. There was a small skylight, and one shower in the middle of the dorm. The dorms were set up based on what your bail was. Since i had no bail, and was waiting to be transferred. I was in the dorm with people under five thousand dollars bail. It was mainly people for drug possession, or domestic violence. In this dorm you could freely walk around. This was what I did. I would wake up around six in the morning, take a shower, and do my work out. My work out consisted of inclined press ups on the stools. You could also do a weird dip on these. That's what I did. There was an older guy in there, for the life of me I can't remember his name. I think it was Joe. When I say older, he was in his late forties. I was twenty seven. Joe had been in and out of jail and prison for what I understood most of his adult life. I've done "one nighters" in jail before. I walked into the dorm, went straight to a bed, and started laying my mat down. A couple brothers (who I ended up becoming very cool with), told me I could not throw my stuff there. I did not argue. I grabbed my stuff and Joe said, "hey, grab your stuff and bring it upstairs. This is "their" area.
I grabbed my things and continued upstairs behind Joe.
Throwing my things down on a open top bunk (top bunks suck in jail), I took a long look at my temporary home. There was a small skylight. The walls were pink. There was a couple paintings of bears in weird little jail outfits. I can swear I remember there were three bears doing the "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" gestures.
The story goes, the sheriff who painted the jail like this was crazy as hell. His office was set up like a war bunker. This sheriff, his son who was on the force, and others were found guilty of raiding drug dealers and selling the stolen product back on the street (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/983839/posts).
This was an easy time. Joe broke down a lot of the state prison system down to me, which at the time I thought was invaluable. The TV was on usually until two in the morning (unless a jerk off guard was working). I paced around the room in the day, and watched walking dead at night.
Joe told me while I'm doing my time there, I should put in a request for road crew. If you do not know what road crew is, it is the inmates you see doing road work. I don't know how many states still do this. I do know that Davidson County is one of the few county jails to have a road crew. My second day or so, I wrote a note on a piece of paper stating I wanted to be on road crew, and gave it to a CO (corrections officer). I think the next day, Joe was pulled out to be on road crew. I didn't think much of it. I knew I was only there for a short time. There was another guy who I worked out and played cards with who was really cool. He loved his Moorish background. I remember him saying, "I fucks with you". I heard this saying a lot when I was locked up. I figured because I'm a pretty real dude.
I remember this night, a brawl broke out over a stolen pencil. One of the things I learned locked up, was how far I'm willing to go given any situation. This is something we should all had to think about. Are you willing to die over your argument? Some people are looking at a lot of time, and killing you makes no difference. At this point, I was not with the killers. As I said before, if your bond was over five thousand dollars (if you are locked up for murder, odds are it is), you were on twenty three hour lock down minimum. This started on the next block. You could see one of the other blocks through a door that the trustees crossed serving serving food. These blocks were crazy. Everyday something happened you could see through the door. Anything from fights, to inmates throwing piss on the guards and the guards beating the shit out of the perpetrator.
A day or so after Joe was taken, the guards came to get me. I was being moved to road crew. I was very happy. With road crew here, you went to 4-H centers, libraries, different spots in the county and did landscaping. You are outside all day, and tired when you get back to the jail. The guard was really cool to me at least. All the guards I encountered were usually pretty cool to me. I don't think the only reason was because I'm white. One thing I understood was "game theory", which we can dive into in here and on other pages. You have a sense of accomplishment on road crew. A sense of purpose. My only concern, was people around the town seeing me. I was somewhat known on the account my Grandfather was a Reverend in this town. My nervousness of being spotted was short lived. After a week, i was being sent to do my six months in a maximum security detention center.
It was a rainy day when the deputies came to get me for my transfer. Joe was in the trustee block with me since we were both on road crew at this point. Joe said, "you're straight man, DOC is here." That was not the case.
I was excited when i was putting my suit from court back on. I was thinking about walking around the yard, smoking cigarettes. Joe had told me how chill it was at state prison. I didn't realize i was being tossed into the hornets nest. I was going to a place you don't want to be long term. Here's the thing with county jails, they are shit. Usually, you do not do a lot of time in county, unless you did something pretty bad and you're waiting for your case to go through. Most of these people can't pay bail, so here they sit.
I was in there for DWI (driving while intoxicated). They had changed the laws recently at the time, that if you had misdemeanor charges, and six or more months of jail time, you do that time in state. I met that criteria, BUT, i was there for DWI. If you get a DWI, no matter how long in NC, you do it that time in county. I was extremely pissed. I had already been in county jail for a week, and it was awful. I'm sitting around with a couple other guys getting ready to be transferred.
I was happy at first sitting there in the Davidson County Jail intake. I was thinking that very soon, DOC was coming to get me to take me to state prison. I asked one of the sergeants where i was going to go for processing. He said,
"Nah, Dayton, you're going to Forsyth County."
"Oh Shit," I remember thinking to myself. I had Forsyth County was nicer than where I was. I think this was only in terms that there are actual windows you can look out there. Forsyth County is not meant for people who have been sentenced (like myself), and for them to serve their punishment there. There is no separation here on crimes or rankings based on how violent you are. It is a maximum security, concrete house of people on edge. You're all together, until you're bailed out, transferred, or dead.
I remember being in the van with four other guys. We were driving up fifty-two North. A highway I had driven on hundreds of times. It's weird when a already bad situation that you have come to grips with under false pretenses gets worse. To put it in perspective, when I was locked up, I saw a lot of people come out of their cells happy as hell. I'd say,
"You going home?"
"Nah man, I'm going back to State [prison]!"
People are so excited when they leave this place to go to a state prison, you might actually think they are going home. They were more excited than when i was released to go home. That was the thing with this place. i had been sentenced. I knew what i was looking at as far as time. Most of the people have no idea. I knew guys that had sat in there fore eighteen months, couldn't make bail, and are just chilling.
Intake to me was the worst time in that place. It's quiet, you don't have books, you get out for maybe thirty minutes a day to shower. I had no idea what was going on. The CO's wont talk to you. Basically you are waiting for your TB test results for a couple days. I met one dude here that was pretty wild. I'm going to call him "Jake". His name was not Jake, but that is what I'll refer to him as.
He was a year or two older than me. He took a bunch of Klonopin, and robbed his neighbors house from what I understand. This was not the worst of it. He had a daughter who I think was around ten or so. He said she was having an anxiety attack, so he gave her one of these pills. She was nodding out at school, in fucking elementary school, and her teacher called the authorities. This dude was a huge piece of shit. I'm sure he is locked up at the time of this writing.
I finally get called out of intake to go to the block I was staying at. The CO who took me out to go to the elevators to my new floor was a racist asshole. I saw this especially when I was a trustee. I was one of the only white guys on any block, and this CO would say shit to where I was like,
"Dude, that's horrible."
All of us trustees would talk about it afterwards. Luckily, they liked me and I never had to say much.
We got to my first block. 6A. This was from what I understood was the "gang dorm". I believed it. I remember walking in, with the three walls facing the control booth looking like the Coliseum. This was when I met my first cell mate "Phil", which we will get into later.
I remember the first time I saw a man get beat with nun-chucks. These were not cool, ninja nun-chucks. These were straight prison nun-chucks.
Prison nun-chucks are made when you put a bunch of bars of soap into a sock, or a laundry bag, and you swing it around like a weapon. Now, this particular incident started the night before. If I remember correctly, the knight with the improvised flail had gotten water thrown on him by the other guy. When i listened to them yelling at each other through the tray slots the night before, I didn't know if they were kidding or not. They were both really young. I think the armed one was seventeen. The other was twenty I think.
As a people watcher, this is why jail can be pretty entertaining. At nights, my friend Psycho and I would pull our property boxes to our tray slots. This is what everyone does really. Good luck going to sleep because people are going to be yelling out of that thing all night. Psycho and I would just sit their listening. He would "stack" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gang_signal), and I would throw in what I knew. Often, I just got back confusing looks.
So, the one kid threw water on the other guy. This much I knew. I called the younger kid Junior. He was one of the few green clothes kids on the block (if you had green clothes, this meant you were a juvenile.) So the next day at some point in time, I'm walking around the block with a guy named KT. K was awesome. He was hilarious. He was in there for drug dealing. Like a lot of these people i was locked up with, i found a lot of good people who were just playing the cards they were dealt. My philosophy with the bangers in there for murder was, you live by the sword, you die by the sword. It's a world i am not in, but I got it. The thing that scared me on the inside, was how many of these guys I could see myself being really good friends with if that part of their lifestyle was not there. Most of the guys i hung out with were "Brothers" too, which is rare. Most the white dudes were thieves; I didn't want to talk to them.
KT and I were walking, and we see Junior sitting outside the other guy's cell holding a bag. KT said,
"Hey Junior, what the fuck you going to do with that?"
"I'm going to hit this dude in the face with it," Junior replied.
Now, I really liked Junior. He was pretty funny and smart and surprisingly optimistic. Maybe, he just didn't know any better. He was a kid who made a couple mistakes. His family was horrible from what I understood, and he was just lost. He had stolen some stuff, and was not in there for anything violent. Yet, here is this kid locked in with killers and hanging outside this dudes cell with a nun-chuck. He was not a big kid either. That's exactly what he looked like, a kid.
Fights in a maximum security jail happen simply based on lack of correctional officers at the jails. Usually there is a block on lock down, for whatever reason, and your CO will have to go check the other block. That's when fights happen. They leave, and then you go into a cell. Most of the time it's not your cell, but the one hardest to be seen by anyone in the control booth. Usually there is a cell that is somewhat out of view. I've seen people who occupy this cell have to mop up blood just because it's their cell. The cell game is a rough luck of the draw. I've seen people start absolutely leaking from a gash, sit in the sink long enough to cover it until the get back to their own cell. At this point, if you don't want any trouble and your cell is where the fight took place, just don't say anything and deal with it. Also, forget about saying no if people want to fight in your cell, unless you want to fight in it.
The Tale of "Jersey"...
There was once a guy in the cell next to mine on 8B, whose name was Jersey. He was younger than me, if I remember right he was twenty-three. Jersey definitely had some mental health issues. I should know, we can see our own. During medical call, he was always out there with the rest of us taking medication.
I'll never forget one morning, we are sitting out in the chairs as the nurse came into the block. There was maybe sixteen to twenty chairs that sat in front of one of the walls where one of the televisions hung on the wall. Now, the thing with jail is you are always tired. You are lucky if you ever get four or more hours of sleep at a time. The lights do not turn off until the correction officer's last head count at midnight, when they pick shaving razors up. They turn these lights back on again at four a.m. Oh yeah, they don't actually turn them all the way off. They are "dimmed", if you want to call it that. I slept for six months with a washcloth tied around my eyes like a fabled blind monk.
This being said, i was a trustee, i didn't sleep much the night before, and I got woken up first to get ready to serve breakfast to the other inmates. Needless to say, after a hour of sleep then waking back up to take medication, i was not paying a lot of attention. I liked Jersey, and he liked me. He was a young kid from a broken home, and from what he said, it was really fucked up.
We are sitting around, I might have been talking to someone else, maybe KT, and the CO that was with the nurse said something to Jersey. Jersey did not like this. Honestly, this CO was a dick so it could have been anything. I remember Jersey saying to this corrections officer,
"I'm in here for stabbing my brother, what the fuck do you think I'd do to you?"
Oh snap, now I'm paying attention.
I remember the CO looking at him, with i assume the same look i was looking at Jersey with. One thing i learned when I was locked up, was don't ask why someone is there. I was a civilian. I was not a banger, these people's world I walked in as some "Suburban Hybrid". It was only through my previous experiences that I could maneuver this bizarre world. That being said, I did not know why Jersey was in there. I ended up meeting his brother a couple weeks later on the same block.
I had a cell mate, I'll just call "K". He was a couple years younger than me. He was a twenty-two year old white kid. I only say "white" kid, because in jail, race plays its own card. This guy looked like he was seventeen. He was really cool and nice though. When he would see me he would say,
K was in there for selling guns. He was in his dad's car, and sold guns to a undercover. These guns if I remember right had been stole in a gun store that got hit. His dad owned a car dealership, and the car K was in was from this dealership. Needless to say, it was easy to find him for the police. He was only in there three weeks or so, and was back out.
One day, K and I were sitting around talking about who knows what. He was a goofy kid, and this is what i loved about him. This young kid was looking at serious time. He was so happy though it seemed. If i was his age, looking at that time, I would have been freaking out. Maybe he was naive. So K and I are sitting around talking, and we hear some rumblings in the next cell over. Kevin sat up in the top bunk, and I stood up from the bottom bunk. I remember looking at him and he said,
"I think they're fighting."
"Nah, maybe he just bumped the wall hopping off the top bunk," I replied.
When you fight in these steel and concrete rooms in jail, it's loud! Especially at this time. Usually people sleep on lock down after lunch. Hell, that's the only time i got more that three hours of sleep a lot of times. The one knock on the wall, turned into several. By this time, K and I are sitting on a property box at our tray slot listening into the party next door. The Deputy on our block at this time was a rookie. This was not a CO, he was an actual sheriff. You can tell if they are wearing a taser. The rumbling was getting louder. K and I were quiet as hell at this point, but other people on the block were yelling by this point. The spontanious rumble now echoed through the block. The young rookie deputy ran over to the cell. K and I are both staring straight at him through the tray slot. He had already called SRT (Special Response Team) by this point. We are looking at the rookie and we see him say,
"Come on man, let go of his throat."
At this point, I thought Jersey was going to strangle and kill his cell mate.
I think Jersey and his cell mate got into it over a domino's game. SRT can't come into the block until the CO's are out. This rookie deputy standing there, took up time for SRT to come in and break up the fight. If Jersey wanted to kill this guy, he could have because this rookie wanted to say shit, and not get out of the block. SRT started yelling at him to get out, so they could move in. So, let's add a minute of this kid getting fucked up. Finally, the rookie left and SRT came in to break it up. They took them both to the Hole. This was not the last I saw of Jersey.
A couple weeks later (I'm assuming after he got out of the "hole" aka "SHU"), he was moved back into the exact same cell. I was amazed. I don't remember who his new cell mate was, but i didn't say anything about the last one. I remember that they got along well enough. There was one day when we had been locked down I think for at least twenty-four hours at this point. This is all due to lack of staff, and the inmates got very pissed off when they could not get out. I actually got to the point of preferring my cell to being out on the block. Granted, I was a trustee so I was going to be out regardless at some point. This is when I'd pass kites for people between blocks, etc. They usually did med call at night around eight or nine, and they opened the cells for trustees and people taking medication.
I walk out of my cell normally. The block was turned up all day due to being locked down. People yelling out the tray slots, and they were not happy. I walked passed Jersey's cell, and then the cell net to his. There was a guy in there I'm just going to call J. J was awesome. He was absolutely hilarious. So i walked by his cell, and he said,
"Hey Spent man, get me some hot water please."
"Wait until they are done with meds. I'll grab you some hot water then, because they are going to let the trustees stay out," I replied to J.
Jersey heard this, and said "Fuck that J, I got you."
The CO, who was kind of a renowned asshole already said,
"If anyone gets water, I'm locking the block down."
This did not stop Jersey. He gets J's bowl, and starts walking over to the water fountain. On the water fountain, there was a tap for hot water for coffee and soup (ramen noodles). In Jersey's defense, several other people already scrambled to the water fountain, Jersey was unlucky enough to be the last one. He's filling up J's bowl with hot water when the CO says,
"What are you doing? That's it, lock it down. LOCK IT DOWN!"
He gets on his radio and calls SRT. At this point we are all walking back to our cells. He kept telling Jersey to go back into his cell, and Jersey was trying to reason with him. At this point, I didn't know what the fuck was about to happen. This is the same guy who told another CO that he had,
"stabbed his brother, so what would he do to him?"
That CO was probably just being a dick as we sat down. This CO was about to have him sent to the hole for getting water. The CO starts making his way to the door to leave the block, when Jersey started running towards the door. This was when I thought, "Jersey is about to stab this guy with something."
Jersey gets between the CO and the door to the hall where the control room is. He starts to plead his case with the CO, which I agreed with. At the very worst, lock him down for twenty-four hours. At this point SRT arrived at the door with their weird blue camouflage. It's not like we are at sea, get some white urban duds for fuck's sake. I think to the deputy, the situation was kind of hairy. Almost in my mind like a hostage situation since he would not let this CO leave. I learned in jail, just telling someone not to move is considered kidnapping.
They yell to the CO to move back, and that's when they piled in through the door.
Now where my cell was, I had a direct view of the door through my tray slot, and what was going on. First off, Jersey had gotten down on the ground at this point. Six SRT officers piled on this kid. I did not see him resisting until the first taser went off. This did not work. I saw some punched being thrown down by the officer. I saw his elbow pulling backwards, over his back, and his fist go down into this kid several times. Taser two went off. Several more punched, and knees are coming in at Jersey. I could see the one officer swinging down with his fist. The other officers around on him had their knees back, and then coming back in striking him. Like in the UFC if you are in side control. Just legs coming back, and knees coming in. Then, taser number three.
Everyone in the block at this point is screaming. I remember sitting there at the tray slot just shaking my head. I didn't need to scream, ninety other inmates were doing that for me. I remember sitting there thinking to myself,
"These guys are beating the fuck out of this kid."
Three tasers had gone off, they finally subdued Jersey. They put a spit mask on him. They claimed he spit at them, which is why they beat the shit out of him. He was face down the entire time. I watched with my eyes, and I'm confident he did not spit at them. I did see these wannabe cops beat the shit out of a young kid who was already on the ground in a jail block. They put him in a spit mask after beating the shit out of him, but him in a chair, and rolled him off with assault on a public officer charge.
That was the last time I saw Jersey. Being rolled off in that chair with a spit mask on. His brother, the one I think he stabbed ended up on my block temporarily. He was there for court for another charge. He was locked up in Greensboro, NC I believe. I remember him asking me,
"Did you see it?"
"Yeah man, I did. How is he?" I replied.
"My mom saw him, and said he was pretty fucked up."
I believed it. He walked off by himself, and was gone in another day after his court appearance in Forsyth County.
"No ones in here for singing too loud in church."
This was one thing someone said to me that I think I'll always remember. There were a lot of people in there who I thought I would hang out with on the outside. Especially the bangers. To me for them it was a, "live by the sword, die by the sword" type of world. A lot of them are probably more chill locked up than they are on the outside. I'm not sure, I never saw them on the outside.
The thing you have to keep in mind, basically everyone is in there for pretty bad shit. Most people with a weed possession or something like that make bail.