Friday, May 1, 2009

The History Lesson

Ralph is forty-nine years old. He has been in jail for twenty-eight of those years. "I've become an old man in jail. When I first started coming in, I had all my hair. It wasn't turning gray like now. I had all my teeth. I got most of the scars on my face and body upstate. I got into more fights there than on the street. You would think that I knew how to get along incarcerated by now." Ralph's body was was stooped and his hands shook a little from "his nerves". He said that he was not proud of all his time upstate but he said that it does give him some expertise in the jail system. He said that he knows more than the correction officers who don't have seniority. Most of his arrests come from minor drug charges. He is more disgusted in how the the jail population has changed over the years. "Years ago, you knew what to expect from the officers. They knew what to expect from you. You were safe in jail but that was before the gangs. Now the gangs run the jail. The officers are more afraid of them than we are. There was a time when you respected the officers. There was no talking in the halls. When an officer told you to move, you moved. Now you only move for the gangs. The gangs control everything. They control the drugs coming. They control the "kites" (the internal mail system). You know,jail is more stressful than prison. You know what time you are going to do, in jail, you come in you've been drugging. Until you get connected, you got to be drug free. You don't know if you are going to beat your case. You don't know if they are will try you on your record on just this bid. You don't know how your family is making out. You don't know who your friends are and what enemies are here with you. Jail is really tough and getting tougher all the time. Besides, there aren't many things to do in jail. There are a lot more programs and activities upstate. I don't know why I keep coming in here. I am too old for this. It isn't safe anymore...not for me, not for the officers.

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