Thursday, September 25, 2014

Death Watch Journal Entry #3

By Arnold Prieto 

To read Entry #2, click here

September 10th, 2014 12:48am

Normally I would be fast asleep during these wee hours of the morning, but instead I find myself typing out my following thoughts to you. My night lamp is my only source of light, beaming down from its perch over my head on my shelf, while the silence is booming its loudness throughout this tomb all around me. I can hear someone’s radio so softly that it gets lost in the silence and making it sound so small compared to it .....

Count time will be called out within the next couple of seconds and the locking mechanism of the crash gate leading into the death watch section will break the silence with its loud metal on metal clanging sound. Soon, there will be a flash of light piercing our dark cages. Well, semi-dark in my case, as if a lightening bolt struck within our walls. The loud silence will once again reclaim its rightful place as the thundering of closing doors echoes out with the guards passing through the tomb with their infernal light.

Within that silence, I can hear the whooshing sound of Father Time's heavy pendulum swinging with every passing second ..... tick.tick.tick.tick.tick. Today is the loudest that I have heard time ticking since my time here in death watch. For later today there is an execution scheduled for Willie "T-Rock" Trottie and if the state has its way tonight, he will be the 513th and 8th for the year to be executed in Texas.

Oh Father Time, couldn't you slow down a little, if but for a few hours .....

T-Rock is a man that any one could get along with and could depend on to receive help from if you had a legal question. He is no attorney, nor does he claim to know all of the law, but he helps you as best as he can. If anything else, he will help you use the unit law library.

I do not know who he was 21 years ago when his case happened. But I do know that he has been a modeled inmate within these walls and never caused any trouble with other inmates or officers.

While we were housed at the other unit, Ellis-One, T-Rock was one of the barbers who cut our hair and to be honest with you he was a good barber! As I have said earlier, T-Rock was someone that would help out anyone if the need arose, be it with something to eat or legal issues.  I can literally say that I have never heard anything negative towards him nor towards his character from either inmates or officers working death row. His character and behavior towards others leads me to believe that there is no doubt in my mind that he would be a model inmate out in general population. That is why I am hoping that he gets some kind of reprieve/action from the courts because the Clemency Board has already denied him clemency. If only the Board would take the time and talk to him in person, they would see the sincerity of his remorse for what he had done all those years ago. How can a person's sincere remorse be seen if he is not given the chance to show it to the people who have power over our lives?! I know that his crime has cause the family and friends of the victims great pain… I, of course, am not condoning the violence, nor any violence of any crime for that matter. But I do wish to send both families my sincere condolences as well to the families of all victims, be they victims of crime or of the states executioner. I just believe that T-Rock should at least spend the rest of his life serving a life sentence in prison and not have to face the executioner tonight at 6pm. For death will always create victims, no matter who does the murdering, be it by an individual or by the state.

Last night T-Rock and I played a game of scrabble after his long day of visits with his friends and family. I was hoping that I could at least help him get his mind off tonight if only for a little while........

As the pendulum continues to swing its heavy arm, I cannot help but to wonder what he is doing at this very hour. Is he asleep?  Is he reading his bible or a letter? Maybe answering a letter? Or pacing his cell like I am about to do to ease my mind a bit? Five steps forward to the door, Four steps back towards the bunk .... Four steps to. Four steps back.

September 10, 2014 6:40 PM 

I have just heard that T-Rock has been executed by the State ..... making him the 513th inmate to be executed since the reinstatement of capitol punishment and the 8th for this year. 2014.


My condolences to the friends and family that stood by T-Rock through his years on Death Row. May he continue to live through the memories of his loved ones....

Arnold Prieto, Jr.

Arnold Prieto 999149
Polunsky Unit
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston, TX 77351

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Just One of the Consequences of Writing (the Wrong Things)

By Mwandishi Mitchell

I'm jittery, and my nerves are on pins and needles.  I´ve been locked down in solitary confinement for thirty-four days.  It´s Tuesday December 31st, and I´m scheduled to see PRC (Pre-Release Committee).  PRC consists of three individuals:  The deputy duperintendent of security, deputy of programs, and the major of treatment.  I like to define them as the tribunal of hopeless despair.  Rarely do they cut any inmates a break.  However, because it´s New Year´s Eve, I´m hoping they´re in a party mood and might grant me clemency.

Breakfast comes at a little after seven.  Two small, cold pancakes about the size of an average adult palm, and cheerios, the breakfast of champions. I stop pacing back and forth in the cell momentarily to eat the meal that´s fit for a six-year-old child.

“Mitchell, you're on the PRC list.  Do you want to see them?” asks Sgt. DeBernardo as he makes his rounds.

Do I want to see them? Does Flavor Flav want to make a comeback with another reality T.V. show? “That would be in the affirmative, D.B.,” I reply after taking a sip of the dirt mixed with water that´s supposed to be coffee.  Sgt. D.B. and I go back about five years.  He was a regular officer on C-Block where I used to be housed.  Always to the point, never a spin master, and when he can make something happen for you, he does, and when he can´t, he tells you he can´t.  A stand-up guy, which are few and far in between in here.  D.B. has had his stripes for about three years.

“This isn´t you, Mitchell.  You haven´t been here in the hole for a couple years?  I´ve been hearing good things about your writing and stuff.”

If he only knew.  “I believe that´s why I´m here, D.B.  Something I wrote three years ago came back to haunt me.”

He answered in a skeptical tone, “C´mon. No way.  How is doing something positive like writing get you locked down in administrative custody?”

“Sometimes, D.B., words can cut harder than any two-edged sword.  I wrote some sexually explicit things about some staff members.  Although, I didn´t use their real names, it wouldn´t be too hard for people that´s been here to know who they were.  As I look back on it, it was a stupid thing to do,” I expressed honestly.

“Well, I hope everything works out for you when you go in there.  I hate to see you down here, Mitch.”

“Thanks, D.B.  I´m keeping my fingers crossed.”

D.B. continues on walking down the tier with his list of names for attendants of PRC.  I go back to my table where my cold breakfast sits.

As I sit there, I really contemplate how stupid I was.  It was funny to me back then.  I directed all my anger and arrogance for people I didn´t like or care for into that chapter I wrote.  On its pale, it would be hilarious for anyone in the know to read it. I let C.O.’s read it back then, and they couldn´t stop laughing.  That gave me a big head that I, a convicted murderer, could elicit laughter from people who read my work.  I was really feeling myself, and I admit, my ego needed to be deflated.  Man, fuck it! I´m posting this shit online! The day I did that was the day I sealed my fate.

I´m not quite sure, but I think the online website posted the book on March or April of 2013.  They even sent me little cards to pass out to people with my name and book on it.  It was a good thing to know that my work was out there on the net, and could be reached and read in a millisecond at the touch of “enter.”

My initial purpose was not malicious.  As a novice aspiring writer, I knew that in order for me to become successful, I would need a literary agent.  The big publishing companies will not even look at your work if you don´t have an agent; not even in the small genre of urban fiction.  So I took a shot in the dark.  I figured if I had a small sample of my work out there on the net, there sure as hell would be agents checking people´s work to see if they could find some talent.  Well, nine to ten months later, and not a peep from any agents! Damn!  It sure sucks not to have any talent.

That´s where it all began. In September, I was lying in my back when my cell door was buzzed open.

“Mr. Mitchell, please come to the bubble,” says a feminine voice.

I recognized the voice.  It was one of my sweet crushes.  While she´s in the bubble, she likes to read urban novels.  It makes her day go by quicker.  She has read all of my manuscripts and compliments me as an “above average” novelist: another boost to my ego!  Anyway, she´s read hundreds of these novels and I know that´s what she wants.  I get up, wash my face and brush my teeth.  The last thing I want to do is be in a pretty woman´s face with hot breath and crust in my eyes.  I select a book from my library and proceed to the bubble.

Sweet crush smells of Bottega Veneta, I´m sure of it.  I´ve pretty much mastered the fragrance of the majority of women´s perfume (thanks to subscriptions to women´s magazines).  “Good morning.  I brought you a good one. You haven´t read this one yet.” I say with a devilish gain.  My eyes follow her lean legs all the way up to her chest.  As the top two buttons are undone, she´s wearing a gold choker with a letter emblem.  Probably, the single letter is the first initial to her name, which I don´t know.

“Mwandishi, boy, you´re so crazy!”

She used my first name.  This lets me know that whatever it is, it´s good because she´s speaking with me casually instead of professionally.  

“Whudiyah mean?” I ask, intrigued at what has her smiling.

“I read your book last night on my phone.  You know, I read the manuscript, but downloading it made me have a better read,” she says looking into my eyes intently.  The wiener schnitzel in my pants is tingling.  

“Whudiyah think about it? I mean…the second time around?”

“They´re going to know you´re talking about them.  You know, the chapter about certain female C.O.’s.  Still, it was very good.”

At this point I say, “Fuck ´em.  That´s why I wrote the shit to embarrass them, to humiliate them.  It´s not their names anyway.”

“But they´re so close.”

“They´re fictional characters.”

Her mouth is closed and in a semi-frown as she says, “Umm hmm.”

“What could they possibly do?”

“Just watch yourself.  They´re going to be out to get you.”

“I appreciate you for warning me.  I got the new In Style and W Magazine, if you want to check them out,” I offer lastly.

“Yeah, on my lunch break.  Thank you.”

“Anything for a tender-roni,” I respond.  She smiles and flags me with her hand.  I´m such a flirt.

Well, as we continue, I thought I was the “Teflon Don” and couldn´t be touched.  Oh wait…they did convict John Gotti, didn´t they?  So much for that quote.  Little did I know that I had delivered myself to the abattoir to be hung on a meat hook.  Delusions of grandeur, indeed.

In November is when the shit really hit the fan.  A guard downloaded the explicit chapter (about five copies) and spread them around the C.O.’s changing rooms!  So now the female captain (who was the star of the chapter) is livid!  They´re checking the cameras to try and see which guard brought the chapters in.  I could assume the guard didn’t care too much for the captain either.

I was awakened at three in the morning on or around the 11th of November from an officer tapping on my cell door.

“Huh? What the…What time is it?” I ask groggily.

“I was told to wake you.  Someone´s coming to see you.”

“Who´s coming to see me?” I didn´t get an answer.

I had a pretty good idea of who was coming to see me.  I turned on my light and television, readying myself for the confrontation.  While I stood with my robe draped around me and tied, I watched basketball highlights on ESPN.  Within five minutes she was standing there in her white shirt and cap.

“Come to the door, sir.”

Sir, huh? Bitch tryna get on my good side! “Yes, how may I help you, ma´am?”

“Do you consider yourself a talented prolific writer?” she asks with venom and scrutiny.

“I love to write, ma´am.  It´s what I do,” I respond, still a little sluggish.

“Are you awake?”


“Well, I need your undivided attention for what I´m about to say to you! I´m going to be doing some writing myself, in the form of a DC-141 (misconduct).  Give me your I.D.”

I give it to her and she storms off.  Yeah, Bitch! I did this to you! I humiliated you amongst your peers and sub-servants.  And I´ll do it again.  Fifteen minutes later she has the C.O. that was with her bring me back my I.D.

“She didn´t write you up, but she´s hella mad!  What was that about?” he asks.  I give him the address of the website and tell him to read it himself.

No matter how evil and bastardly we as human beings try to be, if a person has just the smallest atom of humanity in them, certain things will trigger the spark.  It’s so weird, like…it´s when your conscience tells you, you did a fucked-up thing and your heart feels heavy.  I swear to God, what you are about to read is true and what I felt.

It´s a week after the 3 a.m. visit in the morning and I´m walking up the corridor.  Unbeknownst to me there´s some kind of cancer drive, or blood donor thing going on with the staff.  There´s a table set up and they´re giving away buttons and pens.  And, who´s hosting?  None other than the female captain.  Now this is one o´clock in the afternoon, so I´m not expecting to see her because she works 3rd shift.  I spot her at about ten yards before I´m actually in front of her.  I puff my chest but like an arrogant rooster, my eyes are beaming on her and I can´t wait for her to see me.

Please understand, this woman is fearless.  Her reputation is kick asses and take names to guards and inmates alike.  We lock eyes. That´s right! It´s me! She breaks off eye contact (which she never does to anyone) and averts her gaze to her feet.  Me, with my cocky ass, is still staring.  And that´s when I saw the pain! Pain was in her face and I knew that I had caused it.  That´s when the atom of humanity in me kicked in.  She couldn´t even look at me.  But instead of making me feel good, I felt as low as a snake slithering on the ground. Damn, you really hurt that woman.

That´s the last time I saw her.  It was meant for me to feel that way.  I can´t call myself a human being if I don´t feel bad and horrible about what I did not her.  Her daughter works here, her significant other (we´ll get to him) is the major on PRC.  The whole jail knows and she´s embarrassed.  What right did I have to do that? And not just her, but the other female C.O.’s I wrote about as well.  How would I feel if someone did that to my mother (may she rest in peace)?  Man, sometimes I can be such a fucking douche-bag!  I act irrationally and do things without thinking – yes, I consider myself intelligent.  If you ever read this, Captain, I hope you remember that I´m sorry.  I´m an idiot, truly.  Don´t ever forget.  But forgive me for being an obsessed Cro-Mag.

At quarter to eleven I´m called into the room to see the tribunal of hopeless despair.  The room is filled with a lieutenant and counselor in the office as well.  They know what this is about and want to see the fireworks, before they watch the fireworks later on in the evening as a new year comes in.

“I assume you know why you´re here, Mr. Mitchell?  Asks the deputy superintendent of internal security.

“Naw,” I answer, feigning dumb.

“We have a problem with your creative writing,” he responds.  “What do you had to say for yourself?”

Immediately I go into my pre-rehearsed speech about how long ago I wrote the book and that the characters are fictional, blah, blah, blah.  I am no longer writing urban fictional work; I´m concentrating. The whole time the major (who is the significant other of the female captain I wrote about), never looks at me.  I think he may have been doodling on paper waiting for me to shut my trap.

“Major?” says the deputy superintendent, when I finish my bologna.

“You´re a danger to staff and I´m putting you in a separation floor staff!  You fucked up, buddy!” the major shouts.  Could I blame him?  After all, it is his wife I was talking about.

Instantly in my mind, I know “separation” means transfer.  I lash out in an obscenity laced tirade, and have to be “escorted” from the room.  I was so mad!  My family, I´m so close to home! They´re going to put me up in the mountains seven hours away from Philly!

When I got back into my cell, I started writing a profanity-laced diatribe to the superintendent, deputy superintendent, the major and whoever else my chutzpah was on Def-con 4. The letters were written and ready for Jan 02, 2014, for the mailbag.  I turned out my light and went to sleep.  I´ll show ´em! I´ll show ´em all! I thought as I closed my eyes.

I was awakened a little after midnight, January 01, 2014 to the sound of doors being kicked and banged.  Some things never change.  I hope that one year they´ll forget to kick and bang on doors; but it never happens.  It was then that I had a moment of sanity (the one that twelve step programs talk about), and it enveloped me.  Dude, you´re dead wrong.  This is no one´s fault but your own.  Here you go with this irrational thinking. Shit again!  Hopped out my back, ripped the letters up, ad flushed them down the toilet! You did the right thing, Idiot! Then I smile and go back to sleep.

I told a friend about my plight of this recent debacle.  She said, “Your writing has consequences that are sometimes unfortunate.” I´m going to have to disagree with her on that.  Negative writing has consequences that are sometimes unfortunate.  Yeah, that´s better.

Who knows, when I get upstate, it may be better than Graterford.  The only thing I´m going to miss is the eye candy.  Upstate there are a lot more C.O.s named Bubba, who chew Skoal.  I would imagine C.O. Peggy-Sue chews Skoal too!  I don´t go looking for trouble, but sooner or later it always finds me.  Hell, I´ve been here nine years, I´m going to like the change of scenery.  While on the bus I can look out the windows at the new cars moving down the expressway.  I´ll be thinking of Mary Tyler Moore “We´re going to make it after all!”

Note to self: Try harder not to be an idiot, okay?

Just One of the Consequences of Writing (The Wrong Things).

Mwandishi Mitchell GB6474
SCI Houtzdale
P.O. Box 1000
Houtzdale, PA 16698-1000

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fear Factor

By Jeremiah Bourgeois

I am amazed how concerned DOC (Department of Corrections) officials are for the safety of prisoners nowadays. It's not lip service; they're serious in Washington State. Underneath the telephones in each unit at the facility where I am confined, several phone numbers have been painted largely on the floor. PREA HOTLINE (Prison Rape Elimination Act) screams one in red, and the corresponding phone number allows you to report sexual assaults or plots. VIOLENCE REDUCTION #89 reads another in bright yellow, and hitting these three keys provides the means for reporting physical assaults or threats. Then there's the Office of Crime Victim's Advocacy, a recently established non-monitored private line that enables prisoners to access support if, god forbid, the PREA HOTLINE didn't keep the rapists in check.  It’s astonishing how much has changed over the past twenty years.  

When I came to prison in the early nineties, there were no numbers to prevent being victimized. Frankly, it seemed to me as if the administration didn't give a damn whether I or anyone else got our ass beat or taken so long as the whipping or raping didn't interfere with the orderly operation of the facility. Had I bothered to report that I was sexually assaulted (thankfully I wasn't) or that I feared being victimized (I did, indeed, have such fears back then), I would have been shunted to segregation and remain confined in a cell 23 hours a day, indefinitely, for my protection. I would have had to live under the same conditions that I would have had to endure had I committed a vicious assault rather then fled from potential assailants. In this world, perpetrators and victims met the same fate in the end: confinement in segregation. One for punishment, the other for protection. Under these circumstances, there was little to be gained by reporting anything to administrators. Instead, your best bet was to stay in general population and strive to become ruthless. Swift violence, and the threat of it, is the most effective deterrent in prison.  That was the conclusion I reached when I weighed the risks and benefits of remaining in the general prison population.  

He Who Didn't Take Heed

Clallam Bay Corrections Center (CBCC) is one of two Closed Custody prisons in the State of Washington, and it is reserved for violent offenders and security threats.  Prisoners convicted of first degree murder were at that time required to spend the first five years of their sentence in such a facility. When I arrived there almost twenty years ago, I was amongst the first wave of juveniles in this state that were sent to prison after being tried as if we were adults. "Scott" was part of this group too. We met in the Receiving Unit, and after our orientation was completed, both of us were transferred to the same Regular Unit.  Scott was real easy to get along with, and he had a good sense of humor. Due to our similar circumstances we gravitated towards one another, and began spending hours each day playing cards together in the dayroom, clowning around like the teenagers we were.  We kept each other laughing until it was time to lock up, and would start all over again the following day when we came out of our cells.  That was our routine during those first few months.  

Scott was 17 years old, white, and serving a 20 year sentence for a murder he committed the year before. I was 17, black, and serving life without the possibility of parole for a murder I committed when I was 14 years old. As a teenager who is new to prison, you are tested in countless ways. There are countless stratagems convicts will employ to take advantage of the naïve or unwary. If you're black and serving time in Washington State, you are pretty much accepted by other blacks so long as you're not a known snitch, you don't act like a weirdo, and you aren’t serving time for something contemptible (that is, something that convicts find reprehensible such as the rape of a child). For someone like me, (I’m neither a snitch or a weirdo, and convicts found my crime to be praiseworthy) black bandits would pretty much give you a pass--that is, until you failed one of the tests that were sure to come. Once that happened, you were fair game for everything from extortion to rape.

White convicts, on the other hand, didn't take a wait-and-see approach when it came to assessing one of their peers. Instead, a teenager like Scott had to demonstrate that he was "solid" as opposed to a "lame" before he would be accepted by his racial group. He had to prove that he was worthy to run with the whites; or rather, he had to prove that he shouldn't get run over by them, cast aside, and left for others to have their way with (blacks included). One strike could spell disaster. One faulty move could leave a white kid without white allies: and no support would be forthcoming from blacks, for all too often crossing color lines exacerbates a problem (e.g. cause a race riot).  It would be his problem, no one else’s.  He would be left on his own, all alone.  That was the unfortunate position in which Scott soon found himself.  He made one faulty move, and wound up being brutalized.  

In a nutshell, here's how it went down: Somebody did something disrespectful to him that, under the norms of prison, merited a violent response, and Scott refused to dish out just deserts to the man who had publicly disrespected him. Sounds stupid and petty, I know. Yet that sealed his fate. He was thrown to the wolves, and the predators pounced. Shortly thereafter, he was raped in his cell---all because he was unwilling to be merciless towards someone who had violated his right to be left alone, and refused to let him live in peace. Whether his unwillingness to be ruthless was due to ethical considerations, religious views, or plain cowardice, the end result was the same: he had no one to turn to; there was no hotline for him to call.  He was bent over in his cell and raped. 

I learned what occurred not too long afterward.  Frankly, I didn’t know what to make of it.  Why didn’t he kill that son of a bitch and rapist?  Why did he allow this shit to go this far?  Why didn’t he nip it in the bud by fucking up the dude who had played him close in front of everybody?  This was confirmation that my view of the world was on point.  To survive unmolested in here I had to be ruthless.  I couldn’t hesitate.  I had to be merciless.   

Scott and I stopped playing cards together shortly after he was raped.  It just wasn’t the same.  There was nothing to laugh about anymore.  The dynamics of the relationship had changed.  

Eventually, Scott went into protective custody, where he remained confined 23 hours a day in a cell for his safety. I remained in general population, and I became ever more proficient at protecting myself.  I didn’t hesitate.  I was merciless.  

The next seven years of my life were defined by violence.  I spent five of those years in segregation for being violent. Administrators probably thought it was all senseless violence.  Yet Scott’s experience showed me that being violent made perfect sense.

Jeremiah Bourgeois 708897
Stafford Creek Corrections Center
Unit GA L-18
191 Constantine Way
Aberdeen WA 98520

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Cold Hell

By Samuel Hawkins

I was shoved into a cell, with no mattress, no bed, no clothes. The guards told me not to turn around, and I didn't. I heard the cell door close behind me. The handcuffs were my only attire. I expected that the guards would open the slot in the door and order me to back up to the "cuff port" so that they could remove my handcuffs. I was wrong. When I looked over my shoulder they were gone.

Moments before I had had an entourage of guards surrounding me, jerking my body in whatever direction they wanted me to go. Now resistance was no longer an issue. I had fought my fight. It was not as bad as I had expected. If the tables were turned, I would have smashed all of them. Fortunately for me, they were torn between their professional duty and personal hostility towards me and every prisoner just like me.

I walked over to the cell door and looked out of the window. I saw the guards exiting the pod. Some were part of the cell extraction team and still wore the black uniforms of the "Goon Squad." I wasn't impressed. They were just routine shift officers dressed up with knee and elbow pads, and helmets on their heads, looking like Storm Troopers from Star Wars. Fuck them.

I heard my name being called and I answered. When I did, there was an echo in the cell. With cement walls and floor, and a steel sink and door, there was nothing to absorb my voice as it traveled around the cell. Whoever had called me had already answered back, but I couldn't hear his reply. It was awkward trying to communicate like this. I had to tell him to wait five seconds before answering me so that the echo would die down and I could hear what he said. After five seconds, I heard someone say "ok." I listened through the side of the door, and caught bits and pieces of what he was saying: "It's me, Big ... from Hill ... what did ... ." I gathered that it was a partner of mine, Big Hank from Hilltop Crip, and he wanted to know what had happened. I told him to hold on for a minute. I needed to take care of something.

I had to do something about these handcuffs. My arms were hurting. I sat down on the floor and pulled the cuffs under my legs, then, one at a time, I squeezed each leg through until my hands were in front of me. This felt much better. Now I could lie down on the floor on my side and talk underneath the door. This way Hank and I could hear one another better. There was still an echo, but this was easier to deal with than before. I began telling Hank what had happened, and how I had set my previous cell on fire. This got a response from him and elicited comments from others as well -- mostly laughter mixed with declarations like "That nigga's crazy." I asked Hank who else was in the pod, and he told me that Whitey from Long Beach Insane Crips was upstairs, and Lemonade was a couple of cells down from me. The was also an Uso (Samoan) that I knew named Sam Cat. There were some other names that I recognized, but I didn't know those guys that well. I told Hank that I'd talk to him later. It was getting cold lying naked on the floor with the vent blowing, and I had to get moving.

As I began to walk back and forth to try and stay warm, I thought about how I had ended up here in this "strip cell" again. I didn't want to show any weakness by asking when the guards were going to remove my handcuffs, so I would ignore them when they would come by to check on me. When chow came, they didn't bother to stop at my cell to give me a tray. They just walked by and ignored me.

With nothing to eat, I decided to inspect the cell. I checked the toilet to see if there was any water in it. There wasn't, and I wasn't surprised. When someone is placed on strip cell status it is standard for the water to only be turned on for five minutes each hour and to only provide five squares of toilet paper every two hours. After seeing that the sink didn't work either, I moved on.

I still smelled of smoke, and my skin had a yellow tint from the fire extinguisher. When I recalled the ridiculous voice of the unit counselor as he called out to me while the flames were raging in my cell, I laughed. After I had started the fire, he was on the tier, standing outside of the cell, unable to see inside, as flames and smoke shot out the side of the door. Of all the stupid things to say at that moment, he asked, "Hawkins, what are you doing in there?" I didn't bother to respond even with a "fuck you," for I was shocked by the ferocity of the blaze I had ignited.

The cold air from the vent began to chill the cell, and the cement walls absorbed the cold from outside. I rubbed my arms to keep from shivering. I knew from previous encounters in strip cells that the warmest place is on the floor directly in front of the door where warm air can blow in from underneath. The air outside the cell isn't that much warmer than inside, but it’s the best thing going. Knowing this, I lay down in front of the door and rubbed my body some more.

I heard the door to the pod open and got up to look out the window to my cell door. The sergeant and to guards walked in and went out of view, but a moment later they were at my door ordering me to step the back of the cell. I did, and they opened the cuff-port and told me to approach so that my handcuffs could be removed. After the cuffs were removed, they again ordered me to the back of the cell, and before I made it there they slammed the cuff-port shut. I paced back and forth for a few minutes, relieved that the cuffs were gone. It was getting colder as it started to get dark outside, and I began to run in place to keep the blood circulating through my body. A few minutes later, I changed to jumping jacks. Five minutes later, I switched to burpees. In the midst of this, a face briefly looked in the door. I ignored it. It had to be a pig, and he definitely wasn't stopping to give me anything. There would be no cloths or bedding coming from them anytime soon. Fuck ‘em.

I heard the pod door close again, and then Big Hank called me. I went to the door and answered. He asked, "How you doin’ down there?" I replied, "I'm cool, Homie." His response was once again drowned out by the echo. I reminded him to wait a couple of seconds when I got done talking before he answered. Four seconds later he said, "My bad," then wanted to know who was on the other end of segregation where I came from. I told him my crime partner (co-defendant) Chucco was down there, Lil Spook from Hilltop, a couple of other non-affiliates, and some white boys we knew from general population. Big Hank then told me he was about to play some chess, and that he'd get at me later. He also said that he'd try to send me a sheet when the Tier Porter came out to clean the unit.

I lay on the floor by the door again for a little while and listened to the conversations on the tier. When Hank started playing chess, the tier quieted down some. I could hear him calling numbers out: 12 to 26, 52 to 36, 2 to 19, and so on. I had played these games countless times in segregation. It was a common way to pass time, making a chess board out of paper or whatever else was available and calling out each move. Today I could only listen, because there wasn't shit in my cell to make anything out of. Somehow while listening my mind had escaped the cold, but before the game ended the cold had sunk in again. I got up off of the floor and began walking once more, cursing the guards and their ally--the cold.

I couldn't see the clock from this cell, but I knew that the porter had to be coming out soon. I sure hoped he could get me a sheet. The cold would get much worse as the hours passed into late evening and early morning. I started my little exercise routine to warm myself up again. As I ran in place my bare feet began to get sore as they pounded on the cold cement floor. I stood still and rubbed my body. I recalled my football coach telling me that the warmest place on the body was under the armpits, so I tucked my hands there. I would warm them up for a minute, then attempt to transfer that heat to other body parts by rubbing them. It didn't work. I needed that damn sheet.

I heard the pod door open, and I looked out. The guard had just thrown some bags and a mop head into the pod, and I knew this meant that the porter would be coming out soon. I heard his cell open a moment later and stood at the door looking to see who it was. A white dude. I didn't recognize him. It didn't matter. He knew the program. He'd get me the sheet if he could. He began to push the dust mop around the floor, and we eyed each other--me looking through the door, him through the reflection in the windows of the dayroom. He walked around and came down by my cell, and I asked him to grab the sheet from Hank. He nodded and told me to be ready when he came by. There was no question that I would be.

Samuel Hawkins is 40 years old and has been incarcerated since age 19. 
State raised, he will, at age 45, finally be freed.

Samuel Hawkins #706212
Stafford Creek Corrections Center
Unit GA-21U
191 Constantine Way
Aberdeen, WA 98520