by Brian A. Wilkins
This day corresponds with Sunday, August 3. For a list of all 55 Days In Maricopa County Jail entries in descending order, click here.
Besides waking up for morning chow, I slept (or at least tried to sleep) for 14 straight hours. It was 1 o’clock on the afternoon when I finally got up and took a shower. A few minutes after I got back to the cell, Freddie walked in carrying an open bag of Fritos, but was using a spoon to eat the contents in the bag.
“What the hell is that?” I asked him. “Menudo, bro,” he said. I laughed because the first thing I thought of when he said that was that cheesy 80s Latin boy-band that I think Ricky Martin was once a part of. He described how he would crush-up chicharonis (pork rinds) and Fritos, then mix chili, this Cheez-Whiz stuff that came in a ketchup-like packet, and pieces of what was called summer sausage, but was more like bologna, and mix it all together. I would find out each race had their own form of menudo, but they all looked equally disgusting. “You know us Mexicans…we’ll eat anything!”
Freddie quipped. We got into a long conversation, mostly about his case and life. Though I can’t get too specific, he had already been offered a plea deal for 7-10 years in prison, which he thought was excessive. He doesn’t deny being part of a street gang, and was probably one of the more “real” gangsters in there I met. He was only 19 or 20-years-old, but was sworn into his gang in California long before.
“I was ready to take the beating to get in, but I didn’t know baseball bats were going to be involved,” he said, kind of laughing. What was more interesting was how women got into the gang. They could either take the customary beat-down that the men took, or roll dice and whatever number came up is the number of guys in the gang she had to have sex with to become part of it. “A few of them wanted a do-over when they rolled a 12, but they only got one chance,” he said.
For the first time in a few days, I went down to the main area for evening chow. Rodney and I would make fun out of the fact they call it “chow.” “Just another way to make us feel like animals,” Rodney said, while letting out a few mock barking noises and hanging his tongue out like a thirsty dog would. This guy Art would always want the cookies they give you in those Ladmo bags in the morning. I finally saw why he wanted them and what he used them for.
Though I had seen many gross-looking food concoctions up to that point, seeing Art put those bread rolls in an empty plastic bag, add water and milk to make the bread mushy, then roll it flat like a pie crust almost made me throw-up. He’d take those cookies, crush them up to a mulch, squeeze some jelly packets and peanut butter into it, wrap it up, and this was a tweeker burrito. Sometimes he would spread the concoction on top of a honeybun…and that was tweeker pie. I think there were a few more ingredients in it, but my stomach couldn’t stand watching him make it anymore.
This would be the first day Rodney actually seemed human to me. He was either dealing with his situation really well or hiding it by smiling and being upbeat everyday; while I was always down and feeling sick. He’d been called to medical that day and got a blood pressure reading of 155/110; needless to say, pretty scary. He never had hypertension problems before. But this is what jail does to you, especially when you shouldn’t even be there. We re-visited the incident that happened to him in December of 2007. If “black-on-black” crime wasn’t viewed as fun and entertaining to police and prosecutors, the three hoods who jumped him would have been locked up for a long time.
And if justice had been served then, the situation Rodney is in now wouldn’t be happening. And of course, if Rodney was European American and got jumped by three “blacks,” it would have been national news and the three would all likely be serving more than 10 years in prison right now (see Jena, Louisiana). Rodney hiding his true feeling was no longer an option the more we talked about the U.S. Justice System. You either had to be the correct race and/or sex, or have money to obtain justice in America.
Nobody (meaning judges, prosecutors, and police) cared about the circumstances of Rodney’s case. He doesn’t have $50,000 to pay a lawyer who knows how to navigate through the corruption in U.S. “justice system.” We were simply black toys. This was the first day Rodney realized this.
Before lockdown for the night, Train had given me a stamped envelope and encouraged me to write “Anne” and tell her what was going on. I figured she already had to know, but was either ashamed of me now or turned off by me. She thought of me as a confident, aggressive, yet wholesome Midwesterner. But now was that tarnished in her eyes? I hoped to find out in the coming days.