By Tony Casson
My cellie walked through the door and introduced himself. He is a big guy, but not in a threatening way. He has heavy jowls and a large, soft upper body; he’s white and tattoo-free. He presents himself in a friendly manner, and we talk briefly about my 5 days in the SHU; I told him how happy I was that they had books available and mentioned that I was looking forward to going to commissary on Wednesday (this was Tuesday) so I could get some reading glasses.
He seemed rather friendly and even got a pair of glasses out and said I could “buy” them for $5 worth of commissary purchases if they worked for me. He even gave me a choice of a few books to read. I picked up a Sandra Brown—“Witness”—and thanked him.
He was pretty chatty, and it was apparent he had something on his mind. I gathered that, IN THEORY, your charge is YOUR business, but I also knew that sex offender charges were not popular ANYWHERE, in or out of prison.
He started by telling me that “everybody” bugged him when he first got there to prove that his charge was really “only” drugs and not a crime against children.
Let me take the opportunity to say that, while I am classified, legally, as a sex offender, I think it is important that people not read too much into that initially, and as time goes on, hopefully I will be better able to explain what I mean. I have much to say on the subject and lots of time to say it, but for now, I’ll stick with the story.
My cellie wanted to draw me out, I think, by telling me he wasn’t “one of those” (and by that, I assumed me meant one of ME)—he was “only” in there for 20 years on methamphetamine charges. He already had 5 down and “only” 15 more to go! That much time for a federal meth charge must have involved interstate transportation or somewhere in the neighborhood of a pound of the stuff—maybe enough to kill several hundred people or ruin several hundred lives. But hey, it’s an “honorable” crime, isn’t it?
Come to think of it, if it wasn’t for drug dealers, my own life might have taken vastly different turns, but one can always say “woulda, shoulda, coulda”.
He went on to inform me that “those guys” were very persistent and, as far as it related to him, wouldn’t accept his charge until he proved it. He kept saying, “I don’t care, but those guys do,”—hadn’t found out who “those guys” were, but things were starting to take shape in my mind, even if my mind was going overboard at this point and everyone out in the unit was on of “those guys”. Suddenly, though, how I would respond and BE was very clear to me.
I looked at him and said, “Let me make this easy for you and everyone else. I have a 57-month sentence for one count of possession of child pornography, and a s distasteful as that is, it is what it is. I’m not going to lie to anyone, because quite honestly, I am here to do my time and return to my family and my life and that is all.”
He said, “Well, I don’t care. I just don’t want any shit from those guys, but they have rules.” (Great…”those guys” again)
“What sort of rules,” I asked.
“Well, your kind can’t use the TV rooms; you have to sit in a special part of the dining hall; you have to shower at certain times. Stuff like that.”
“I’ll do whatever I have to in order to keep the peace, within reason,” I said.
He waddled out of the room (he really does waddle), and I jumped up on the top bunk to read while he went to make his report to “those guys”.
Sure enough, about 30 minutes later, 2 guys walked in—one was the heavy-set guy who helped me locate a mattress, the other a younger version. Ahh, “those guys”.
The older guy asked me what my charge was. Knowing he knew already, I climbed off the bunk and said, “Well, I’m sure you know, and I’m not going to lie, even though the counselor told me to.” I told him. The counselor had gone for the day, but I was informed that there was “one of my kind” in #208, and there was an empty bunk. He told me to go talk to him and then ask the counselor to move the next day.
“Whatever makes y’all happy,” I said sounding more sure of myself than I felt (I hoped).
I went up to #208 and knocked. The occupant waived me in. He’s a tall, shaved-head, older man with wire-framed glasses, a substantially large gray beard, and barbed wire tattoos around both forearms.
“I was told to come meet you and move here and be with ‘my own kind’. I guess the ‘cool people’ don’t want me hanging around with them, which is just like it was in high school.”
He laughed and said that was fine with him. I told him I’d see him the next day and returned to my cell to read.
At one point, my cellie returned, and I told him I’d see the counselor the next day to move to #208. All was well with the world.
He left and I just stayed on my bunk, thankful to be intact. I was determined to go to commissary the next day and stock up on things I could eat in my cell—enough so I wouldn’t have to leave for 57 months!