My Daily Journal in Federal Prison

Day 36

I need to start watching my temper.  For those who know me well, that may seem like a curious comment since most people would describe me as even keeled, but this place can quickly do strange things to a man, and one thing that I just can’t stand is when my fellow inmates are disrespectful to each other.  There is a time AND a place for most activities, however, most of these yahoos typically get it wrong on both counts.

When I use the word “respect,” I’m not referring to the kind that is most often understood by THESE thugs — the type that is unearned and expected as a given.  I use the word to describe the mindfulness and courtesy that we should give each other (regardless of race, creed, age, or sexual orientation) as it relates to matters of privacy and just plain, overall good manners.  While this is not the only example, it is exactly the one that set me off this morning:  not everyone is compelled to enjoy your high-decibel pontifications about your desired outcome of the NBA Finals at 8:00 a.m. while your neighbors are attempting to read, wake up, and watch the news in the common area.  And I ENJOY spirited discourse about sports, so it has nothing to do with the subject matter being bantered about or the group itself doing the bantering…but rather, the volume at which they were communicating (a term that I use VERY loosely) and their general lack of regard for others.

And this is what I struggle with — and perhaps the collective YOU can help me here…is it racist to be upset with a very specific group of individuals that have no regard for their fellow man?  By “specific group,” I mean that quite literally…a half dozen very specific INDIVIDUALS (who just happen to be of the same race), as opposed to that very specific race in general.  Can one even make comments about their behavior to their faces if one doesn’t belong to that specific group…without fear of retribution or being accused, ironically, of disrespect or even racism themselves?  (And yes, that is the proper usage of irony…take note.)

Here’s the thing — you don’t have to remind me that I’m in prison and that in prison we all bring with us a variety-pack of socioeconomic backgrounds and are forced to live among each other like some bizarre reality t.v. show without the ability to choose our own neighbors.  I prefer to live within a diverse population whereby I am exposed to differing opinions, interests, and entertainment than my own, which is why I live in a large, urban area on the outside of this hellhole.  Furthermore, I truly believe that the only way to breed acceptance, tolerance, and understanding is by exposure to those who are different than what we are typically accustomed.  So this has nothing to do with color…I could be blind and I still would have been enraged this morning.  I wish I were deaf.  Obviously, not all African American males are loudmouths, but all loudmouths here are indeed African American males.  The hispanics don’t cause any disruptions…the Asians aren’t asked to pipe down…the rednecks mind their own business…the Native Americans are peaceful…the white dudes aren’t overly boisterous…what gives?  To pretend that this phenomenon doesn’t exist would be ignorant of one’s own surroundings.

And speaking of Native Americans…a big, scary looking one named White Dog went so far as to “shush” these morons because they were interrupting his own program on the History Channel…and they looked at him like HE was trippin’.  Really??  Really?!  It got to the point where I couldn’t concentrate on my book, or my writing, or even some mindless morning news program when I ultimately had enough, pounded my coffee mug on the table, stormed out of there, and slammed the door on the way out.

Ready for some more irony?  It was MY door slamming that rankled THEIR chains (pun very much intended).  No sooner than 10 seconds expired when one of these mental midgets came roaring out of there, muttering under his breath something about “who does that guy think he is slamming the door like that.”  For my own safety and well being (as I’m not a big fan of anal rape), I don’t think they were swift enough to connect the dots between MY behavior and their own…they just thought I was being rude.  Next time, I will either just avoid the common room altogether (which is an unfortunate concession that I would have to make) or simply walk out quietly the next time there is a similar outburst.  I keep thinking to myself that they will have a rude awakening once they are back out on the streets and realize that they won’t be able to continue behaving this way…but then I’m quickly reminded that they probably won’t be out there for very long before they come back here, or somewhere worse, and that it was very likely the streets itself where they had learned this behavior.  Needless to say, I’m buying 5 pairs of $0.20 ear plugs from the commissary tomorrow.  And keep in mind that this is not a one-time occurence…this type of loud, obnoxious behavior is recurrent and incessant.

You know what else rubs me raw?  The ridiculous “seating chart” in the common areas, based on tenure, especially since (again) it is only this very specific group of individuals that enforces this.  This past Sunday, I set up shop at 6:00 p.m. EST at a table in front of one of the newer flat screens so that I could catch Game 6 of the NBA Finals at 8:00 p.m. EST…I knew that the seats would be hard to come by once the game started.

At about 7:50 p.m., some dude comes in and mutters something to me (I couldn’t quite hear because I was wearing my headphones) and he sets down his water jug right next to my personal effects.  He then storms out.  I quickly gathered that he was claiming my seat as his own for when the game should start, yet I couldn’t quite wrap my head around his logic.  While I would never be the aggressor, I refuse to be bullied, especially in a place that preys on the weak.  I stood my ground and remained with my ass firmly planted on the poor man’s Tulip Chair (Google images).  The beauty of this place being a “disciplinary” low-security facility is that most dudes don’t want to get into trouble and risk getting sent to a Medium…and others who are on their way out wouldn’t want to jeopardize their release dates…so it makes it easy for me to feign the courage to stand up for my own rights.

At about 8:45 p.m., nearly 45 minutes into the game, this dude comes sauntering back in and leans down real close to me.  He says, “Has anyone explained to you the rules around here?”  Without even allowing me the chance to respond, he informs me that there are dudes who have been here for awhile that get to sit wherever they want, regardless of who has already been sitting there.  My response?  “Even if I’ve been sitting here for two hours?”  His response, “Some dudes have been sitting here for years.”  I made it clear that I wasn’t moving and he tried to play good guy by ALLOWING me to remain this one time since I wasn’t familiar with the rules.

Now, I ask all of you to keep me in check throughout my time here — I refuse to ever be THAT guy…I don’t care if I’m serving a life sentence.  Be courteous to your follow man.  Respect him and he will respect you.  Be especially courteous and respectful to those who DO NOT have seniority or tenure (in my mind, tenure in prison is nothing to hold proud).  Besides…where does this logic end?  If I am in the middle of emptying my bowels in someone’s favorite stall…must I leave the stall immediately if he shows up and needs to take a dump?  Only because he has been here for one day longer than myself?  Can you imagine walking into a crowded movie theater and asking someone to remove themselves from your favorite chair?  Or asking the dude in front of you at Starbucks to get out the way because you’ve been coming there before he had ever heard of an Americano?  Fuck that noise.  Perhaps I should have asked that individual if he ever heard of Rosa Parks.  And honestly, if I hear the N word one more time amongst themselves, I might throw up.  I realize that I may have absolutely no RIGHT to even comment about their choice to use it as a term of affection amongst themselves, but it would seem comparable to gays calling each other f@ggots or jews calling each other k!kes.  Regardless of who says it, it is still ugly and it keeps that ugliness in our collective vocabulary.  Show some respect for yourselves.  Am I offbase here?  I really want to know.

Similarly, I’ve been finding myself getting up early or staying up late to watch the kind of t.v. programs that I might enjoy…only to have some idiot swoop in out of nowhere to change the channel to Bernie Mac or Pawn Stars.  By the same reasoning, on the streets…would I have the right to rip the Wall Street Journal out of a commuter’s hands and replace it with Maxim?



  Mark wrote @

Dude, you’re going to have to learn to accept what you can’t control , and not trip . You don’t want to hurt your release or security classification either , nor get involved with any race shit. Prison is a very good place to catch a dose of zen.,,

Thank you for posting, I’m folllowing your story with great interest.


  DH wrote @

Dude, you’re in prison. You should expect this type of behavior from others. I’m not surprised it is the African-American population that is getting under your skin as their cultural upbringing is much different then your own. Generally, their families often do not wait for others to stop talking and constant interruptions from others is the norm. The only way to have your voice heard is talk over and much louder then everyone else.

Two solutions:

1) Ask them next time why they insist on not using 12 inch voices. Let them know it is a “rule”.

2) Tell them to keep it down.

I recommend neither option. Quite frankly, I think 98% of the obnoxious behavior is meant to get under your skin. Seriously, your best tactic is sit there and not show any ill signs of being bothered, you may even move closer and show interest in what the conversation is about, listen in. Other then that, unless you want to start cracking skulls, I think this is something that will need to be tolerate.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: