By Tony Casson
I’ve described the compound and perhaps given you all a rough idea of the physical characteristics. But now, I’d like to try describing for you what it’s like entering the general population and “mingling” with the rest of the “residents”.
Remember, up to this point, I have really only seen my cell-mate and the guards (called “C.O’s” for Correctional Officers). The 5 days in the SHU have certainly been confining, uncomfortable, and boring—but safe! But it’s time to meet the inmates…
To those I spoke to prior to April 1, believe me, I wasn’t really nervous—but April 6 was the time to get down and boogey!
I walked from the SHU towards the Key with my bedroll under my arms. I wore a T-shirt, brown elastic-waist pants, blue slip-on canvas shoes, white socks and boxers.
I made my way to the entrance of Allen #1 with my stomach churning, throat constricted—NOW I was nervous, but then I would bet that 90% of those entering are, too (the other 10% being socio- or psychopathic.
They all wore the same hostile, suspicious expression, and there was no way to tell who the 10% were, but they ALL know who the ner person is. The things you’ve heard about prison race through your mind, and in that instant, you are more totally alone, isolated, vulnerable, and afraid than you can ever remember being in your life.
Not showing it, however, was the trick.
I approached the door to the unit and walked in. As I went closer to the main area of the unit, there was an inmate standing there looking at me. He was heavily inked; he had his hair fixed in corn-rows, but he looked Hispanic.
As I walked past him, he looked at me and sniffed the air. I heard him say, “Smells like one.”
I soon found out exactly what he meant, but I already had a pretty good idea. If my face appeared calm and indifferent, it was a miracle, because at this point I was anything but.
And to think, I voluntarily submitted to this…WHAT WAS I THINKING?!
This is the type of place someone should be dragged into, kicking and screaming!
I made my way to the assigned 2-man cell, which was all the way at the other end of the unit, and upstairs. When I got to the door, several people asked what number I was looking for, and when I told them, they informed me that someone was already in that bunk and I’d have to go see the counselor.
It seemed like 30 people were all speaking at once.
I asked where I could find the counselor and was given vague instructions—“About halfway down that way”.
I walked downstairs and went “that way” and indeed found an office with a black male in a light blue polo shirt sitting behind a desk. He looked up at me and said, “Come in, come in. Shut the door and sit down.”
He introduced himself as “Mr. Senegal, the Counselor,” and asked my name. He searched my file on the computer, and I told him I was assigned a bunk that was already occupied.
He told me that my charge was an unpopular one amongst the jail population and that I might get a hard time if they were to find out.
The could try, but he said he wouldn’t say anything. Ultimately, though, he said they would dig until they found something. Sooner or later, one of them would get my name and number and get it to someone on the outside. It could be entered into the BOP (Bureau of Prison) website.
He told me to let him know if anyone gave me a hard time.
Somehow, I knew that doing so, in the event something DID happen, would not be a good idea. I also decided that trying to hide anything from anyone would also not be the best idea…