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To the Super Max 

A prison diary

Wednesday, Nov 21 2001
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Page 2 of 5

The door is finally racked. I see Pirate go out on a stretcher, still breathing. I figure that's the last time I'll ever see him.

I miss the flush. Lost to two pair.

NOVEMBER


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Going to court is a joy -- 3 a.m. they yell your name and number, and put you in chains of three or four in a bus with 30, 40 guys, most of whom would like to kill each other. And, when you get to court, they slam you into a holding cell.

The stench is overpowering -- fear and piss and adrenaline-loaded sweat. Count on a couple of fistfights. And if real enemy crews end up in the same holding cell, it goes off like Vietnam.

I keep my back to the wall, pray, and wait to see the judge.

Another dry run, no reason to be in court today.

We get back to Super Max and strip all the way down, then bend over one after another and cough -- so the cops can see if anyone's got a shank keistered. This safety procedure comes with the added pleasure of routine verbal abuse from the cops. I actually breathe a sigh of relief when I walk back into my dorm and can hit the rack. Close my eyes and escape for a few hours.

 

EARLY DECEMBER


Another court trip, and I'm held over for a few days at Main County. I'm in a four-man cell, stuck there around the clock. There's no freeway time because of all the stabbings. The food is wheeled to the cell, which holds me and three Paisas, none of whom speaks English. One of them has made pruno (wine) out of the garbage available to us and offers me some. It smells great, but I pass. I stare at the bars and do pushups.

The dudes in the next cell got some ice, a crystal-clear form of meth. They stay up all night babbling insanely. Fucking speed freaks going a million miles an hour in a 6-by-12 cell.

The mainline is not separated by gang or color. Different crews of Crips have their own tank somewhere, as do the Bloods. Gays and transsexuals are kept together. Then you got the Nazi Lowriders and the Aryan Brotherhood, who aren't getting along right now, and a couple of neighborhoods that fucked up with the mob, like the Vineland Boys and MaraVilla. All these different groups have their own tanks; some because they're killers and some so they won't get killed -- like the straight P.C. cases who are scared to hit the mainline at all. P.C. stands for "protective custody"; supposedly it helps keep known enemies apart and protects the weak. But seeing some of the obvious victims makes you wonder.

On the mainline, you got South Siders, Paisas, Blacks and Woods. Asians don't walk the mainline at all because they got a complete green light, whack on sight, which means it's okay to beat them to death or stab them, with no questions asked from the South Siders. Everyone else is going off so hard they may segregate the whole little city that makes up the L.A. County Jail system.

After my four days at county, I get called to catch the chain back to Super Max.

 

MID-DECEMBER


Now it's time to make a decision: try and get classified as a head case and get psych meds and relatively easy time, or say fuck it and hit the mainline. I decide to avoid the withdrawal drugs. If I can pass on drinking pruno, which I like, I may as well stay clean. Head drugs aren't clean, even if you're taking them to break your addiction.

Hit the 700 dorms at Super Max, which are overpacked with 120 men by my count -- though I'm told the county says the number has never been higher than 75. Whatever. This kind of crowding increases the politicking. South Siders and Blacks are waiting to kill each other; the Paisas stay low-key. South Siders are gang members or riders from anywhere south of Bakersfield, mainly Latino, second- and third-generation Mexican-Americans, and a few White Boys from the barrio. Paisas are non-gang-affiliated Latinos: Mexicans, Salvadorans, Puerto Ricans, etc.

I'm a Wood -- short for Peckerwood. Once upon a time, to be considered Wood you had to be about something. Willing to stand up. Now that's what all White Boys are called, regardless of how they carry themselves. Addressed by inmates and guards alike as Wood. I shave my head and start letting my chin-long mustache grow back.

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