Day 14: New Students, Fried Chicken, and “shafters”

by Brian A. Wilkins
12/21/08

This day corresponds with Monday, August 4. For a complete list of all “55 Days In Maricopa County Jail” entries, click here.


When the doors opened in the morning, I realized I’d been in this place for two weeks! And I wouldn’t have a chance to get out again until court on Monday, August 11. But my confidence level in the latter was virtually nill considering the patterns of monkey-ball bull that had taken place thus far. After showering, I went to Walter’s cell and woke him up for “school.” I was a little disappointed in the fact he had not finished filling out the multiplication table nor had he finished writing the paper. “Man no wonder you couldn’t make it through school,” I said, in a condescending sort of way. But Walter had a decent excuse. “I can’t do this multiplication,” he said. I just figured he could add and subtract, but this was not the case (at least he couldn’t do it very well); thus he could not multiply or divide either. As we sat in the main area doing all different sorts of math problems, this guy Jose, who I’d only spoken too a couple times, sat next to Walter. A couple minutes later, “Black,” who I had only spoken to a few times, sat next to me. I  discovered neither of them could read. Jose, who was in there for repeated possession of methamphetamines charges, signed a plea for five years in prison with a stipulation that he would walk free and be on probation for 3 years if he could earn his G.E.D. in prison. “You mind if I sit and watch?” he asked. Black told me he could write, but didn’t know how to use punctuation marks; he said, “I just keep writing.” For that morning at least, they sat with Walter and I, doing the arithmatic problems and asking questions. How could a 40-year-old guy and a 20-year-old guy, who were born and raised in the United States not have basic math and English knowledge? Granted all of them dropped out of school at some point, but you’d think just an elementary education at a U.S. public school would give you a basic understanding of math and English. That’s why, as they say, newspapers are written at a junior high reading level; which assumes most people can at least comprehend at that level. But of course, schools which “blacks” or Latinos are the predominant population, are unquestionably inadequate and the more people I met who couldn’t read (there were many), the more it confirmed my belief that this dumbing-down of “blacks” and Latinos in the United States is done deliberately. In other words, more fun for those who pull the strings.


I figured I would go through my customary rituals of giving my “slop” tray to Chino at evening “chow” time, but on this day, there was a fairly decent sized fried chicken breast in the tray; complete with mashed potatoes that looked real. It took me only a minute or so to eat the first morsels of food I felt were fit for human consumption since I had been in there. “That chicken didn’t stand a chance, did it?” Steve said. Apparently, fried chicken was served once a month, according to a few of the guys who’d been in there for a while. But I would not see fried chicken again the rest of the time I was in there. Plus it just felt like being given a dog biscuit or some other doggie treat.


I was trying to fall asleep for the rest of the night until “Marty” came to the cell. “Hey man, come here, I want to show you something,” he said. He led me to cell #35, which was one of two cells the surveillance cameras could not capture because of the angles they were at. When we got there, this “wood” guy who just arrived that day, was in there. “Check out what white boys do,” “Marty” said. I couldn’t believe what I was about to see. The “wood” squatted down, pulled his pants down slightly, and grimaced, as he was pushing as if he was taking a shit. After a couple seconds, he reached back into his rectum and pulled out a bag of marijuana. It had apparently been there for at least three days, since he brought it in when we was arrested a couple days prior for armed robbery. I was told that the trick was not to eat anything until you could remove the booty (pun intended). “Marty” had negotiated a trade, getting some marijuana for a few bottles of hooch. These guys were called “shafters” in prisons and were valuable commodities for people who wanted to smuggle stuff into jail. It has to be shoved up there pretty far too, being you are told to “bend over and spread your cheeks” several times when you get to one of these places. I’d imagine it can’t be healthy to those who do it. It’s no secret that I am a staunch backer for reform of marijuana laws, but there was no way in living hell I was going to smoke something that just came out of someone ass. And smoking in jail was just not something I was interested in at all.


Rodney was hanging out in the cell again, which was now a nightly thing. He was still trying to get a copy of the police report on his case. I told him to call the public defender’s office tomorrow and see what they could do. I was also going to call there again to see if the guy assigned to my case had gotten any of my messages and gauge whether or not I was wasting my time trying to contact him in the first place. But I wouldn’t get the chance to even call the next day.

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