I'VE BEEN SERVED

My Daily Journal in Federal Prison

Day 137

It was like a game of CLUE (“Peaches…in the Shower Room…with a Mop Handle.”)  Except, in this case, there was a theft, not a murder.  It all started, however, with the cliched trappings of a true murder mystery.  Around 9:00 p.m., the cop walked into the Unit and announces in his most authoritative voice…”Listen up!  We have a thief among us.”  Verbatim.  “There have been several pairs of shoes missing.  We are going to run the tapes in the control room.  In the meantime, if you were the one who took them, you have the option of setting them back out somewhere in the open.”

This directive was slightly ambiguous because it was without a “NO QUESTIONS ASKED” clause.  It was unclear whether or not the culprit would be let off if he returned the merchandise.

Theft, in general, has always been a problem in the Units — after all, there is no honor among thieves — but this issue becomes particularly exacerbated come football season (more on that at a later time) when gambling debts spiral out of control and inmates need to come up with a way to repay the bookies.

As the search for the missing sneakers intensified, the tension in the air was so thick, you could cut it with a knife (albeit an improvised cutter, fashioned from the lid of a tin can).  Turns out that the victim was a nice, mild-mannered Hispanic guy (from my hometown) who was well-liked and minded his own business.  The rest of the Hispanic guys in the Unit began to gather like darkening storm clouds and fingers of accusation were pointed in every which direction, like errant lightning bolts.  The thunderous rumbling of their angry Spanish sparked even more kinetic electricity.

The first and most likely suspect, and ultimately a red herring, was a gentleman recently released from the Hole for theft…who ran a hustle cleaning and selling sneakers acquired from indeterminate sources.  Hmm.  But things are not always as they seem.  Acting only on a hunch and some whispered blame, the cop tossed that guy’s cube and rummaged through his locker, turning up nothing ill-begotten.  Of course, the suspicion of this particular individual didn’t just end there, but the inmates just assumed that he had a clever hiding space for the stolen goods.

About twenty more minutes had passed, the cop’s time spent wandering the halls, casing the joint for clues.  And then came the tell-tale sign of the end of most prison mysteries.  The cop starts coming up the lane running past my cube with a red two-wheeled hand truck (momentarily reminding me of the iconic wheelbarrow of William Carlos Williams) — which is often the first omen that someone is going to the SHU…the Hole…the Bucket…the Corner Pocket.  This is the first indication because that cart means that an inmate’s locker and personal possessions are going into storage…as the inmate in question would no longer be needing his things for the foreseeable future.

And wouldn’t you know, the cop stops directly across from my own cube, to apprehend a suspect out of a neighboring cube, which consequently also neighbored the cube of the apparent theft.

You know when a serial killer is apprehended and there is always one neighbor on the evening news who purports to have had the individual in his sights?  “He always seemed kind of strange and quiet.”  That’s how I felt about the guilty party.  Dude was a young, white guy with a really poor attitude and a permanent scowl on his face.  He was a recent arrival on this compound as he was kicked out of the camp down the hill (I’m assuming for the same reason).

He didn’t have very many known associates, other than a couple of rednecks of ill-repute, and he was notorious for snorting pills purchased from other inmates who had obtained them for their own use at the controlled pill line.  Perhaps that was his motive — to score some more pills.

It’s funny — while he wasn’t the most obvious suspect, he was certainly the one that made the most sense after he was fingered.  Which should be a lesson to everyone to refrain judgment from those who stand accused of a crime with no real evidence other than a “hunch.”

(The guilty party here was seen taking the brand-new Nike running shoes from his neighbor’s cube on the security footage and stashing them behind a washing machine in the laundry room.)

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CurrentlyReading:  “The Good Life” by Jay McInerney

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Institution Movie:   “Something Borrowed” with Kate Hudson.  Barf.

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Lunch:  Fish FiletSandwich, Mac & Cheese, Spinach, Salad with French Dressing

Dinner:  (Wrap-Your-Own) Beef & Bean Burrito

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1 Comment»

  Evelyn wrote @

Theres about as much honor out here as there is in there.


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