by Brian A. Wilkins
This is Day 2 of the “55 Days in Maricopa County Jail” series. This would have been July 23, 2008. Note: Some names in the story are deliberately changed to protect the identities of those who did not give me permission to use their name.
It had to be well after midnight and I hadn’t moved a muscle in over 6 hours. Many of the 70+ men in the “tank” had lied down on the filthy concrete floor hours ago and fell asleep. Many of them had their face a few inches from someone else’s butt; others were contorted in position I’ve only seen circus acts do; and me…I was sitting on a rail on one of the benches. I hadn’t slept in over 36 hours and was really tired, but the phone hanging on the wall did not suffice for a pillow.
Instead I ended up talking to this guy named Victor most of the night. He was a Latino man and the only person I saw who had a lawyer for their initial appearance. Victor told me he was in jail on a probation violation, but never quite specified exactly what it was; except to say it had something to do with his ex-wife’s car. It was he who would be the first of well over 10 different individuals who would say, to this day and hour, one of the most twisted, asinine comments I’ve ever heard.
“I would much rather just go to prison for four months than be on probation for 3 years, ” he said. “It’s just too easy to break probation and you’ll end up in prison even longer…just get it over with.”
I would soon learn that most of the individuals in that “tank” had been in prison at some point, just by listening into random conversations. I would also “learn” that prison was better than jail! The stories began getting way too depressing so I had to change the subject. I asked Victor, and then some other buck-toothed European American guy who invited himself to the conversation (which, I would learn, is common) what was going to happen now. Several of the guys in there kept pestering the guards, which I learned are called “D.O.” (for detention officer) asking them “when are we getting classified?” Being classified was when they determine whether you are minimum, medium, or maximum security and then ship you off to one of the other jails. This would not happen for another 13 hours or so.
Meanwhile, sometime that afternoon, after getting absolutely NO sleep, they pulled me out of the “tank” and took me to “medical;” which as soon as I heard that, my stomach started hurting. There was no telling what these people may try and do to me in there. To my surprise the doctor was pleasantly HUMAN. She wanted to re-splint my hand but said “they” probably would not allow that. “But you probably aren’t going to be here for very long anyway, are you?” she asked, knowing nothing about what had happened.
However, she would soon disappear and I was left in the presence of some creepy, weird chick who pulled a giant needle out of her shirt pocket and looked at me. “I’ll need your right arm, ” she said sarcastically. This was where I would draw the line. “You people aren’t sticking any needles in me,” I said. She and some male nurse continued trying to tell me how gentle she was, etc. Finally, after first trying to tell me I had to get a bunch of shots, they said it was up to me whether or not I wanted to get “blood drawn.” I signed a waiver, refusing any needles to be stuck in me. All I could think about was those “hepatitis-B vaccines” the CIA et al used as the cover-up for spreading, via direct injection, the man-made HIV/AIDS virus all across the Continent East (“Africa”). They would have to kill me before I would let them inject me with anything.
It had to be early in the evening when another “D.O.” came back to that “tank,” which now had “only” about 35 people in it, and called my name with about 7 other guys…Victor was one of them. He led us to this room, where I given a pink plastic bracelet with that same mugshot Deborah Stocks, of ABC15 used, and a “classification” of “medium” indicated on it. We were all then told to strip down, put all of our clothes in a bag, and were given “stripes,” which I would learn is the term for the jailhouse clothing; complete with the infamous pink boxers and pink socks. I would also learn I was going to “LBJ,” which before that day I had always thought stood for Lyndon Baines Johnson. But then, and for the next 50-plus days, the acronym would mean “Lower Buckeye Jail.”
It was a relatively short bus trip over, though it was made longer by having full prison-garb on for the first time; “stripes,” shackles, handcuffs, and rubber sandles. I had never even been to the side of town I was about to enter, and until weeks later, I had no idea where “LBJ” was located. When they finally assigned me a “cell,” and I walked towards the “house” or “cell-block” it was in, I grew more and more scared. What was going to happen to me in here? Would I get the shit beat out of me? Would I get fucked in the ass? Would I ever get out? Why was this happening to me?
After I went through the fourth heavy metal door, and it loudly slammed behind me (something else I’d get used to), I walked into this large area that looked like a warehouse with elementary school lunchroom tables in the middle. This was cell block T-12-A. I was in cell #20. Carrying the pink sheet, pink towel, and hemp-colored blanket they gave me, with all eyes on the new guys walking in, I looked around the two-level concrete closet, just hoping to find #20 and hopefully disappear. Instead, after taking only a few steps into the block, a dark-complexioned Nubian man walked up to me, extended his hand, shook it, and gave me a “brotha-hug.”
“I’m Cali,” he said. “Where you at?” he continued, looking at my pink bracelet. He led me up to the “top-tier” where the place I would sleep for the foreseeable future would be. We dropped off my blanket and towel, and carried the mattress, which resembled an elementary mat in gym class, down to the main area, placed it on top of a table, and wrapped the sheet around it so tight, you could use it as a trampoline. While I was learning how to keep from getting skin infections by covering up the “mattress,” a man who had to weigh over 370 lbs, came up to the table we were at.
“Sup man, I’m ‘Train’,” he said. “If you need anything for the time being, like soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, or deodorant, let me know.” I was not aware that you had to BUY personal hygiene products or simply go without them. Train was a light-complexioned Nubian, covered with tatoos, and had his hair in a ponytail. “Man I just want to take a shower and go to sleep,” I said to him. Within a minute, Train had gotten me a half-bar of soap, some toothpaste, deodorant, and shampoo. “Yeah dawg I hear you; coming from The Matrix ain’t nothin’ nice,” he joked, slapping me on my back.
I walked back up to the cell and dropped a few things off, before I ventured over to the showers. I was again, kind of anxious to get into one of those shower, but was put at ease by Train and Cali, and the fact the showers were actually divided by walls. I soon discovered showers would be extremely uncomfortable and tedious, as first, you just have to hope the water gets lukewarm and two, you have to push a button every ten seconds to keep the water running.
When I got back to my cell, the man who would be my first “celly” was in there. “I’m Mario,” he said. Mario was a Latino man with several missing teeth as, he admitted, he had been smoking methamphetamines for over 13 years. He had already been on the bottom bunk so I had to use the top. Because my hand was broken, I had a difficult time climbing up to the top, so Mario boosted me up there that night. We chatted for an hour or so, telling each other about why we were there. I would then hear a loud, muffled, almost indecipherable voice say, “lock down for the night; lock down for the night.” All I could hear were several people walking up the steps, many people saying goodnight to others, before 36 metal doors slammed one at a time. I lied there staring at the ceiling for a few hours, before I passed out from sheer exhaustion. This would be my first night in LBJ.