Rules of the Row

Greetings and welcome once again to the Roost. I deeply apologize for my absence but it is due to the environment that must survive within. I will see if I can explain at least some of what has been happening over the last few weeks.

Things happen in a place like this that are near impossible for anyone outside of it to understand. Unfortunately, I must leave some information out so I do not implicate myself or others as I relate what I can to you. So please bear with me as I give you the information I am able to give you.

The reason I have not posted on the Roost recently is because I am trying to protect this forum as best as I can from detection by the powers that be. I, however, on the other hand, feel an obligation to those of you who wish to read my ramblings to give you access to do so. I have therefore decided to throw caution to the wind and give you a carefully worded post.

My mail of late has been under elevated scrutiny, or so I believe, anyway. As has everyone else’s mail that resides in the block that I do. I will try to leave out any intrigue or latent paranoia as I am able and stick with what I know to be facts as I relate the reason for my hiatus.

My immediate neighbor, someone I have known a couple of years and enjoy interacting with (I find it… difficult… to call people here “friends”) is no longer in his cage… or indeed this block. He is now over in another area of the prison where they (the prison) have the Violence Control Unit. (Although some years ago they started using the euphemism “Enhanced Security” for who-knows-what reason.)

The reason for his relocation is that he (my neighbor) was involved in an assault.

This was not an assault where someone is beaten up. This was an assault where someone was stabbed over twenty times and had to be put on a helicopter and med-evaced to a hospital outside the prison to save their life– this assault occurred on the basketball court. (Oh yes, this means no more basketball for anyone. Security, administration, all freaking out… a few may even be concerned for the future of their careers.)

No small contingent of inmates are also concerned, as this “prison thing” just got very real for them. Behavior that they have been indulging in that is not tolerated in this environment, but was gotten away with because everyone was kept separated in cages…. well, the “cost” must be coming due on the horizon in this close custody experiment that is pending, and paranoia is almost palpable. (I can’t help but find that part a bit amusing myself… many have been writing checks with their mouths that their asses had no intention of ever cashing, and now payday is coming.)

But I digress… the point of this is to give those of you who are interested in such things a little “peek behind the curtain” of a maximum security prison environment.

My neighbor (the one who was moved to V.C.U.– I will leave out names as I believe that to be best) is really a nice fellow. Intelligent, well-read, generous to a fault, gregarious, and in general, personable. I like him a lot. He is by no means the uncontrollable animal I am sure the prison system would like you all out in the world to believe at all. I have personally been out to the basketball courts with him over ten times, and there are others as well, about a dozen people I think. (Although not many have been out as much as he and I.)

So why did the assault occur?

(I am sure the details– also something I will not go into on this forum, would cause most to call it “horrific”.)

Well, the simple answer (and the only one I can give you here) is the prison– administration, security, command staff, etc.– messed up, big time!

Some of “the badges” harbor the false belief that they are in control of the chaotic sub-society that they created the environment for formation of, but never really did have control over. (To be honest, that is why “special management” or “supermax” prison units were created and built: to house convicts the system cannot “modify” into submission. Death row should never have been housed in one as a whole population.)

It generally serves a purpose to let “the badges” have the illusion of control. But some, due to an inflated ego, or perhaps an infinitude of stupidity, begin to believe they truly do have control and do whatever they please instead of showing even a modicum of common sense and realize there are some things that just should most definitely not happen. (Like my neighbor being put into a basketball enclosure with the person he was.)

The close-custody experiment pending is another example. I understand there are many here on death row who do not under any circumstances want to participate in close custody. I can only imagine that’s because they realize “the bill is coming due” for past transgressive behavior… and they understand the prison personnel are not in control and do stupid things myriad because it is generally not themselves who end up paying the price. Personally? I just sit back and wait to go to close custody– I wouldn’t miss it!

At this time, I should probably tell you that my neighbor came away from the assault relatively unscathed. (Do you remember the device I mentioned in a previous post concerning the basketball program… the one that launches little hard rubber balls filled with pepper spray powder? My neighbor was hit about twenty times.) But otherwise, it was the other person that was on the helicopter to save his life. Trauma surgery has come a long way. (The wars that have been happening in recent times have forced the advances to happen in technology.) He lived… but the blood trail from the basketball enclosure can still easily be seen and followed.

It is my understanding that the artery in his neck was clamped off so he did not bleed out. But to be honest, all the information I have about that part of it is second or third hand at best… details are sketchy at best… don’t want us to have too much information — that “illusion of control” thing, you know?

I do apologize that I just cannot go into much detail… there are pending investigations, my former neighbor will likely be charged with some sort of crime, no doubt. The cops are likely reading this before even Anna does, let alone all of you… and besides, I know nothing about any of this other than what I can find out in bits and pieces. (A standard story that I will stick to no matter what, as I ever have and always will.) So what I can relate to you here is thin at best.

I know it is difficult for you all out in the world to understand the statement, “It is all the prison administration and command staff’s fault!” (I am sure your “knee-jerk” thought is: “Why can’t you just follow the rules?”) To which my answer would be… that is exactly what we are doing, following the rules. Our rules. The rules that enable the aforementioned “sub-society,” the foundation of which was laid down long ago in the creation of an environment that control could never be had over.

And “our rules” are actually a modification of “their rules”, which are as follows:

  • If you don’t do as you are told we will take away the small comforts you have and treat you as a dog that has been errant, taking away all your “toys” and confining you.
  • If you exhibit any aggressive behavior at all, you will be gassed (pepper sprayed), tasered, forcibly taken to the ground. And beaten, then to be removed to a “special area” where everything can be taken away from you for up to a year or more, and you are literally treated as a highly dangerous wild animal where you are chained hand and foot before you can come out of your cage to be strapped to a gurney because you are not even allowed to walk anywhere because you are “so dangerous”.
  • You do as you are told, without exception, or any or all of the above can and will happen to you.
  • You may not put a piece of paper over your light (which is turned on 24/7) to reduce the amount of light in your cell. No, they do not care if you have a headache or not.
  • You may not hang up your clothes to dry after you have washed them in your tiny sink. All laundry must go in once a week for washing. No, they do not care that you only own two pairs of boxer shorts, two pair of socks, and two shirts. You can’t wash them and hang them up! No, they don’t care that your clothes smell bad and are more dirty when they come back from the laundry than when they went in; washing your clothing that you must wear dirty for days is not allowed!

I could go on and on… I could write a book about the “the rules”… but it is the punishments I mentioned at first that are relevant here.

If we are treated with violent behavior, then how might we respond to our violent environment? Well, we too have a code of conduct, things that are expected of everyone without exception. People that are “new here” are given a period to learn this code, but if they refuse to, then more aggressive means must be employed to “get the point across” when one lives in a testosterone-fueled, violence-filled, aggressive environment, that person either responds accordingly, or they likely become a victim of that environment one way or another.

Arizona is not what you might call a “rehabilitation state.” When people are incarcerated in the Arizona prison system, it is for punishment, make no mistake about that. Oh, they give some people “jobs”. (Little more than slave labor, really, making five or ten cents an hour…and death row are not allowed to have jobs!) and claim that as “rehabilitative job training”. But in truth they could not actually run the prison system without the consent and help of the dumbasses that take those “jobs”. (Inmates prepare the food, work most of the maintenance, do all the cleaning) — perhaps “dumbass” is a strong word… working likely helps their time go faster for one… but still, they help the system imprison them! But again, I digress. (Or rant, whichever you prefer.)

If you do not at least try to rehabilitate someone, how should you expect them to act? Like someone who understands they made mistakes and wants to better themselves and join what society calls “normal”? Or might they act as the dangerous animal like which they are treated? There are few who can separate the worlds and act accordingly, depending on which one they are interacting with. Am I one who can? Sometimes I wonder and it troubles me. I am pretty sure my former neighbor is. But when it comes down to it, we are all products of the horrendous environment that was created for us.

We live in a place of swift and sometimes vicious retribution and lessons learned by violence. I ask that you try not to judge us harshly. If a human is treated like an animal long enough, it becomes difficult to remember what it is to be human. Especially if one only interacts with this environment.

The assault that occurred, of which this post is about, would be deemed as barbaric and vicious by society outside of prison. Here, however, it is simply another day in this fucked-up place. (Please excuse the profanity. I try to refrain when I can, but it fits here.) I survive in a place of extremely high violence and that tends to make one jaded to it at best. To understand this world– truly, really understand it– one must become a part of it. And I deeply hope, with whatever is left of my humanity, that none of you ever get that chance.

So again I ask: judge us not too harshly, as you have not walked in our valley of death, and cannot understand it unless you do.

‘Tis time for this old raven to sleep now. Take care. I will see about getting back to a schedule of posting more often. Please remember to thank Anna, without whom none of this would be possible. She is a kind soul and a dear friend who is deeply appreciated and loved.


One thought on “Rules of the Row

  1. I always look forward to reading Munnin’s comments about being on death row. It is a part of life that I have never been exposed to nor do I know anything about. I am saddened by some of the things that I have learned. I do realize that death row is there because people do bad things. I wish that everyone could still be treated like a human being, it is hard to believe in this day and time that there is not a better solution. I have no clue what the “better solution” would be, I have no idea how to change things, I just wish it were better for these inmates. They have a life time of living in isolation, living in a situation we cannot even begin to imagine. I know also that some of them did terrible things. It is still sad to me that this is what we have to resort to. I just wonder how it would be if we could treat them like humans. Humans that made a terrible mistake. I wonder if that is even possible? Maybe for some? Maybe not.

    Liked by 1 person

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