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Day 1 The army of prison guards zip tied over 100 inmates who would later be called enemy combatants and escorted us to the hole for solitary confinement. The war in our wake consisted of approximately 80 northern Mexicans vs. 20 southern Mexicans and 2 White inmates, me and my friend. The problem. The northern Mexicans had tried to keep the southern Mexicans in check by mandating they not take their shirts off and expose tattoos from their homeland. My friend and I appreciated our card games and exercise with the southern Mexicans enough to not want see them outnumbered. We lent a hand.
Our hands were cuffed behind our backs for 22 more hours. The torrential amount of pepper spray on most of us ate into our skin and continued to reignite as it mixed with sweat and sent a burning vapor into our eyes and throats. We finally got a cell.
Day 2 We all watched the Prison Administration pass out a bedroll, a set of hole clothes and a cup and spoon in front of every cell. While they did this, they also posted either a blue or red square piece of paper on each cell. Upon further inspection, the paper signified the occupants of the cell by the letters SM on the blue paper and NM on the red paper.
I looked at my cellie. He was a behemoth individual who looked like Dolph Lungren from one of the Rocky movies. His name, Steven Smith. I decided on calling him “Giant” a while back. This was my second time in solitary and his first, so it was up to me to explain some things. “SM stands for southern Mexicans and NM for northern Mexicans. They have us confused.”
There was a prison guard a couple of cells down from us so I scrunched into the corner of the cell where there was just enough space. “EXCUSE ME.”
The guard looked at me in a disgruntled way and said, “WHAT? I’M BUSY!”
I said, “YOU MADE A MISTAKE. MY CELLIE AND I ARE WHITE INMATES.”
He walked over and stood directly in front of our cell and studied us for over a minute. Then said, “So what.”
I said, “So take down that blue paper that says SM and find a White piece that says we’re White inmates.”
He shook his head no and said, “Not going to happen.”
I spoke to his back louder as he walked away, “LET ME SPEAK TO A SERGEANT OR LIEUTENANT THEN!”
He walked away without answering.
I looked back at Giant and said, “They’ll fix it when we get to I.C.C.”
Giant asked, “What’s I.C.C?”
I said, “Inmate Classification Committee. They come by once a week to sort things out. Like deciding who we can go to our 10 hours of yard a week with and other things.”
Day 3 The lack of anything was starting to invade. The proof that other inmates before us had run out of things to do was etched all over the cell in graffiti. A book would have been nice to read. Cards or a chess board would help. Nothing. We worked out. Cell showered. Then took turns standing at the cell door staring at the prison guards doing almost as little as us.
Day 4 The prison guards passed out breakfast through a tray slot in the cell door to an onslaught of questions.
“When are we going to start getting yard?” “What about showers?”
The prison guards didn’t look like they had any answers. One looked like he wished he did, and said, “Maybe later today.”
That turned out to be a hollow statement.
Day 5 We both woke early thinking that this might be the day some kind of program would begin. By 2 in the afternoon it was apparent that we had nothing coming. Some of the other inmates that came with us from the riot were starting to get restless. I heard a few people telling their cell mate the same thing I told Giant. That by law, we had to start getting 10 hours of yard program outside of our cell and showers 3 times a week. The frustration at the lack of care was building.
Day 6 The breakfast carts arrived to over 100 angry inmates who were getting closer to exploding in desperation. One inmate started side kicking his cell door, then another followed suit. Soon every cell had an inmate kicking the cell door. The release of energy mixed with adrenaline was like a needed drug to wake up out of a solitary daze. It felt like we were dogs in a cage and instead of barking, we were kicking. “BOOM BOOM BOOM!!”
The prison guards did the worst thing they could do, ignore us.
By evening, we the confined inmates, came to a decision. We were going to flood the building to force some kind of communication. We stopped up out toilets by stuffing a towel in them and began flushing. The building had two floors so the water flooding out of cells on the top tier began to rain down like a waterfall. We watched the prison guards call in more guards and they filled the building holding squeegees and mops. Finally a Lieutenant came by a few cells to communicate. He told us we would start getting program in the next few days. We asked enough questions to get to the root of the problem. The prison didn’t have enough staff. They were waiting on an authorization to add more.