Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Turn Out

A Story by Samuel Hawkins

Note from Author: Please allow me to begin by saying that some of you may be offended by what you will read. That is not my intention. I also do not want you to misinterpret my first person style of writing. This is not a personal story. Although I have witnessed this, and been party to the stories of others involved in these acts. But this is a vivid, though some may say depraved, look at prison life. Those are the stories that I tell well. I hope that this does not alienate you from my writing.

The chow hall is where I got my first look at him.

When the "chain" arrived, the "fish" walked down the center aisle of the massive chow hall in bright orange jumpsuits on display for everyone.

This was a weekly spectacle.

This is where I waited each week looking for my next opportunity. Today he was a young kid, 20 or 21. When he walked in he looked around, but there was no recognition, no one called to him, or acknowledged him. He approached the serving line, and I left my seat and approached him, from an angle. I said excuse me, as I reached across him for a cup. I looked him directly in the face, so that I could see his eyes. My face showed not even a hint of kindness. It was too soon for that. I searched his face for fear. It was there, I knew it would be. I could see it, even though he tried to hide it. I laughed to myself. I filled my cup with juice, intentionally moving slow enough for him to catch up to me. Then I turned and walked back to my table. I sat down and watched as he slowly made his way down the aisle looking for a place to sit. His eyes made contact with others, looking for an offer to "sit down and eat." None came.

The other fish spread through the chow hall, searching for their own place to eat. Some had friends, or had been here before. Not this one. He was unsure, lacking in confidence. He moved closer to my table, and I stood up and offered him a seat. The line was cast. With nowhere to go, he quickly sat down, gratefully.

"Thanks" he said.

I shook my head. Took another bite of food and looked across the table at him. "Where you from?" I questioned around my food.


"How long you got?"

"Seven years."


I never asked threatening questions. Nothing challenging. This was just small talk. Get him comfortable with me. There were enough threats just walking around with scowls on their faces. This whole prison was a threat to a young kid, fresh off the chain. I knew that he would need a cell to move in to. That would be mine. So would he.

I looked at him more closely.  Outside of prison, girls would think he was cute. His family would call him a handsome young man. To me, he was "pretty." "Boy/Girl" pretty. Brown eyes, long eyelashes, pink lips, caramel complexioned, long hair, in braids, thin body (athletic), small hands. Not feminine, but neither a look of masculinity.

He had questions for me. When could they use the phone? He still grouped himself with the rest of the people on the chain with him. I knew he was alone. He didn't want to be. Where is the yard? When would he get out of the 'pumpkin suit'? I had answers, and we shared some small talk. I showed an interest in him. It equated to acceptance. He asked my name.


I told him that we had yard in about half an hour. I would look for him out there. I got up and picked up my tray. As I expected, he followed close behind. We dumped our trays and walked out the door. I knew there were eyes following us. Others knew my play. They would watch and laugh. We would laugh about together later. Some of my partners would want the play-by-play. Others were making their own plays, in their own ways.

When I was in my cell, I brushed my teeth, and washed my face. I sat back on my bunk watching a college basketball game on ESPN. My mind was racing. I was excited. The prison loud speaker announced, “signs out for recreation.” I got up and put my coat on, put a fresh pouch of tobacco in my pocket, and grabbed a handful of hard candy. Tools of the trade.

As the loud clang of cells opening crashed against the walls, I stepped out onto the tier, headed for my destination. This is what we call “fresh work” in prison. I was greeted by a sea of prisoners flooding into the prison yard.  This is where everything happened. Drug deals, fights, stabbings, future plans were made, and past exploits were relived. This is where problems began, and problems were resolved. This was also a hunting ground, where weak inmates were approached, accosted and picked off. Separated, isolated, preyed on, and played on. This is where I would go to work.

For me, tonight I only had one thing on my mind. I spotted him before he saw me. It was easy to identify him in his bright orange jumpsuit. But I purposely let him find me. He was looking for me. Perfect, I thought to myself. He called my name, “Jay.”

I turned and looked at him, even though I had seen him all along, I acted surprised.

“Hey.” I said.

Together we maneuvered our way to the track, and even though we were side by side, I led the way. As we walked, I pulled out the tobacco and offered him a cigarette. He accepted. As we walked around the yard familiar faces spoke to me.

"What's up, Jay?"

I was at home here, while he was still in awe of this old relic of a prison. There were many faces, none familiar to him, but they spoke to me with friendship and relish. I stopped and talked to a couple of friends, and introduced the “fish” to them. They shook his hand, and smiled a conspiratorial smile at me. They knew, even if he didn't know. This too was a part of my play.  My status amongst the rest of the population. After a few laps we sat down against one of the famous walls of Walla Walla, Concrete Mama. The Washington State Penitentiary.

I had the hook on the line, and now I would put some bait on the hook. I rolled a couple of cigarettes, and we smoked, and talked. I paid close attention. Listening more than talking. I wanted him to reveal himself to me. I listened and learned. I knew that anxiety and fear pulsed through the veins of many prisoners that arrived here. I counted on it. I would allay some of those fears. I was trust. Someone to grasp on to. Even though I knew his name, I thought of him as my “boy.” A piece of candy offered, and accepted. Trust.

We spent three hours on the yard that first night. A first date. My explanations of what to expect and what he would encounter took away some of the fear. Having a friend took away some more of the fear. His need to trust was what he should have feared. We would meet again tomorrow at yard. As we walked back to the units, I left him with the rest of the pouch of tobacco, and candy. When I got back to my cell I was smiling to myself. It was apparent that I had a successful excursion. The whole prison knew. They had seen me at work before. This would not be the first time, or the last.

I knew that the “chain tier” would be the last to go to chow for breakfast, so I waited before heading there, so that I would arrive just before he did. After picking up my tray, I went to my table and greeted a friend of mine who was already sitting down eating. When the chain tier came, my boy looked in my direction and smiled. I kept a straight face, allowing a brief nod in return. When he arrived at the table with his tray and sat down, I introduced him to my friend. He nodded, then quickly finished the rest of his meal and excused himself, leaving me and my boy alone.

My boy asked me about the schedule that day. I told him that he would get his clothing this morning, and then we would have lunch followed by yard. I let him know I would see him out there again. I also let him know that he could sit at my table, even when I wasn't there, and if anyone questioned him, tell them that Jay said you could sit there. I didn't go to lunch that day.  He did, and he sat in my seat.

When the afternoon yard movement was called I headed out again. As soon as I got through the gate and began to cross the track, I heard my name called. I knew who it was, of course. Once again we began walking around the track. This time I stopped and did some dips and pull ups on the exercise bar. He joined in. Having been in prison for as long as I had been, I made it look easy. When his strength waned, I put my hands on his waist, boosting him up to help him eek out a few more repetitions. This allowed me to gauge whether he was comfortable with physical contact from me. He was. I did a few extra sets of pull-ups just to demonstrate my superior strength. Then we sat down against the wall again. We picked up our conversation where we left off the day before.

"What did you do to get locked up?" I asked.

"Robbery." There was no pride in his voice. It was just fact, nothing more. A bad decision.

"What did you do?" He asked.


Another statement of fact. I didn't elaborate, and he left it at that. He did, however, want to know more about prison. I answered all of his questions. I even gave him some insight into the real me during our conversation. As to my real intentions, I gave away nothing. After three more hours, shared together, the yard period was over. We got up and walked to the gate to leave. As we stood in line, I asked him if he needed anything else over there on the chain tier.

"Some soap."

I told him that I would bring him some at dinner.


I waited for my boy at dinner and gave him not only a bar of soap, but also some deodorant and toothpaste as well. There was a question in his eyes. I answered it.

"Don't worry, you don't owe me anything." Then I told him I would see him at yard.

When we got to the yard again and sat down, he said, "I need to find a cell." I knew this was coming. Guys on the chain tier have one week to find a cell to move in to. Otherwise they can be dumped anywhere, not knowing who lives in the cell or what the living arrangements are. Usually these cells are the equivalent of a drunk tank in the county jail. But it could be better or worse. I didn't offer to let him move in my cell, not at first. Instead, I questioned him about who he could possibly move in with.

"You're the only person that I really know here," he said. I knew this already. He was nibbling the bait. All I had to do now was sink it in, with a little jerk. I paused as if I was in thought-- the picture of serious contemplation. Then I told him that I would talk it over with my cellie to see how he felt about it. He looked relieved. He'd bit. Time to reel him in.

Three days later my boy moved in while I was at work. When I came back to the cell he was sitting on the footlocker reading a book.

"Why didn't you turn the TV on?" I asked him.

"I didn't want to touch your stuff without permission."

As he stood up to move out of my way, I put my hand on his shoulder and said, "I'm not tripping on shit like that. Watch TV, or listen to the radio whenever you want. Make yourself comfortable, you live here too." I opened the footlocker that he had been sitting on, revealing cases of Top Ramen, rice, meat, beans, and other snacks. "You're welcome to eat too." I said. I had all of the comforts one could have in prison for him to enjoy. He was in a gilded cage. I would do everything short of violence to keep him there. I spent hours each day playing cards and chess with my boy, getting to know him better. We were bonding. This was an essential part of turning him out. He still didn't know it, but it was happening.

At his age horseplay was perfectly normal. When we wrestled and our bodies touched, my erection would rub against him. As I grabbed at him, my hands would graze over his buttocks. It was innocent only to the blind eyes of innocence. These activities were shared by us alone, mostly when our cellmate was at work. We stayed up at night while he was asleep. We stayed in the cell when he went to work or yard. Our time together became intimate. We ate with one another, and soon he learned how to prepare the meals I enjoyed. In no time, my boy began having a bowl of food waiting for me when I came back from work.

It was almost time.

I took a shower and came back without my shirt on. I asked him to put some lotion on my back. He did. No questions. No hesitation. When he took his next shower and returned to the cell, I told him to sit down on my bed. When he did, I took his shirt off and gently pushed him forward onto his stomach. I squeezed some lotion onto my hands, then began to rub it on his back. Gently, I moved from his back up to his shoulders, then on down to the top of his buttocks. There was no resistance from him. I extended the massage longer than was necessary to merely apply some lotion on his back. I didn't want to go too far though. While there was no sexual contact, this was definitely a sexual act. I stood up and put the lotion away after a few minutes, and he sat up from the bunk. "Thank you." he said. With that I knew I had broken down a major barrier. When I sat back down after putting the lotion away, I told him that we needed to talk.

"What we do in the cell stays in the cell. Do you remember when I told you that? When you first moved in?"


"Some things that we do in here are just between us. And that does not include our cellie."

"Okay." He responded.

I looked at him closely and saw that he understood.

As the days went by we shared these massages after our showers. He had never seen me do this with our cellie. This was just between us. It was not something that we would do when he was in the cell, ever. In this prison of cement and steel we had found a little comfort.

I had been quiet for a few days, and when my boy asked me what was wrong, I told him that I was fine. It was obvious that I wasn't. He could see it. I made sure that he took notice. After the third day of this he tried to give me a massage when I came back from the shower. I rejected this, and he was hurt. I could see it. Had he done something wrong? Why was I displeased? I saw the question in his eyes. I sat on my bunk and told him to come sit down with me. When he did, I turned to face him, looking in his eyes.

"You know that I care about you. I don't want to do anything that would hurt you. But I think that my feelings for you have grown deeper than I thought they could."

He just looked at me, and listened.

"I want you to do something for me. Something that I wouldn't ask you to do unless I thought that you cared for me as much as I do for you. I trust you that much.”

He just looked at me. I reached over and hugged him, pulling him close to me. He didn't pull away. Our mouths opened there on the prison bunk. My hands ran down his back, caressing him, and as my lust increased my erection poked free. I reached over and took his hand, guiding it to me. I pulled my shorts down and he did what was natural and unnatural at the same time. When he was done I thanked him.  He just smiled at me. I told him that "this meant a lot to me. This is something that we can share together and I won't tell anyone." "I trust you." he replied. I knew that all the barriers were down.

Our relationship lasted almost a year. When he got transferred to another facility, I felt empty inside. Drugs could not take this loneliness away. It was five long weeks before I saw something that caught my eye.

The chow hall is where I got my first look at him. He was in an orange jumpsuit, looking around for a friendly face. As he moved toward the serving line, I left my seat and approached him from an angle.

Once again it was time to make my play.

As the years have passed me by, I have seen this cat and mouse play many times. This is more often the case, than outright rapes. At least that I have witnessed.  Mind you there is a stigma in prison to many people who engage in homosexuality. But there is a greater stigma, to the young men who become "turn outs."  But often no one alerts them to their fate, because it is not their  business. Interfering in another’s affairs is frowned upon. Even to the point of being a silent witness.

Samuel Hawkins 706212
Washington State Penitentiary
1313 N. 13th Avenue
Walla Walla WA 99362


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. Sorry for such young guy, but it's still a good illustration of how little by little you can crush someone's will and manipulate him into doing whatever you want even if at the begining that person would never agree.

Tom A. said...

Dear Samuel,

As disturbing as your story is, there is also something tender about it. Even if the circumstances under which these two men came together was imbalanced, to say the least, they did come to make real meaning of it. Love and affection matter, even if they do grow out of selfishness and manipulation, as long as they become something more. I just hope that the characters in your story somehow managed to get more good from their relationship than hurt, especially the "fish."

I would like to know more about what you call "turning out." Why does it inflict so much damage to the person to whom it happens --and what kind of problems does it causes them? Maybe someday you could write an essay about that.

I'd also like to know if there are other types of emotional relationships between men in prison that are not based on coercion. Can real love develop? Does it always depend on a power imbalance?

Thanks for writing --and keep it up!


Kaity said...

Interesting read, writing in 1st person gives a whole different perspective than if it were written another way? This is thought poking and intriguing at the same time? Would also like to know more/read about "turning out" and the problems and issues this might pose. Good work!!

Avron Kaur Dhillon said...

The story is not inappropriate because it is very well written with an almost delicate sense of intimacy to it.
Very intriguing and insightful. Breaks the stereotypes about homosexuality in prisons being all violent and forceful.
It does also show how important the need for companionship is in humans, regardless of where life lands us.
Samuel maybe you could write more and look into sending your manuscripts out. You're really talented and your style of writing moves me.
God bless you always