The setting is the Classification Office at the Diagnostic Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institution Division. The office is typical of state offices with U.S. and state flags, and the walls are adorned with certificates and plaques. A desk is down center and is situated at an angle so that an equal number of persons on each side of desk can be seen by audience. Hill, a male specialist, about middle age sits behind desk. A door is up left. Phone on desk rings.
Hill: Hello. Yeah, send him in. (Knock on door.) Come in.
John: (Walks in and stands in front of desk.) Yes sir.
Hill: (Picks up file and scans name and number. Points at chair.) John Shamurr?
John: Yes sir.
Hill: What’s your TOC number?
John: (Looks at ID card.) 123456.
Hill: What’s your age, son? (Confused.)
Hill: Sixteen! How the sam hell you end up in this hell-hole?
John: (Shrugs shoulders.) This where they sent me.
Hill: You should be at a Texas Youth Center.
John: I was over there when I was twelve.
Hill: You must’a really pissed somebody off.
John: I guess.
Hill: (Reads file) Says here you molested a twelve year old boy.
John: I guess.
Hill: You guess? You did or you didn’t. You rape him?
John: Well, he wanted to do it too. But they said he couldn’t consent.
Hill: Heck, you can’t consent either. It’s something else to this. (Reads more in file.) What you do to get sent to TYC?
John: Stole a watergun.
John: Everybody else had one and I wanted one.
Hill: Your parents wouldn’t buy it?
John: Ain’t got no parents.
Hill: What about, let’s see . . . Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Wilson?
John: They were my foster parents.
Hill: They wouldn’t buy the watergun?
John: They didn’t like me too much.
Hill: Now they wouldn’t have taken you in if they didn’t like you.
John: Well, they don’t anymore.
Hill: Who is Willy Wilson?
John: The son. Their son.
Hill: I guess its pretty hard to like someone who beats up your son.
John: It started before then.
Hill: Just when did they start not liking you?
John: When I told Mrs. Wilson what Mr. Wilson did to me.
Hill: And that was?
John: He made me do different stuff.
Hill: Different stuff?
John: Nasty stuff.
Hill: You mean he molested you?
John: I don’t want to talk about it . . . Nobody believes me anyway.
Hill: (Reads in file.) I see you claim a Mr. Jenkins molested you too.
John: He did. More’n once.
Hill: Come on now, Jenkins works for the state over at TYC. I can’t believe the good people over at TYC would treat you badly.
John: You just like all the rest of em.
Hill: All the rest of em? Why everybody want a piece of you? Hell, it ain’t like you Billy Budd or something; fact is you down right ugly.
John: What ugly got to do with it?
Hill: I’m just saying, what makes your little narrow ass so inviting?
John: I guess I gotta watch your punk ass now!
Hill: Come on Cup-Cake. You got good head? That it?
John: (Standing. In process of leaving office.) Twist off shit-for-brains.
Hill: You stand right there offender! Arrr gaddd you property of TDCJ now boy, and you’ll do what the fuck you’re told, when you’re told.
John: The hell I will. Beat me up I ‘on’t care.
Hill: (Comes around desk and cuts John off.) Alright, son. Come back and sit down . . . please. Had to see where you coming from. Check violent tendencies.
John: Where I’m coming from! Where I’m coming from! I been shit on every day of my miserable life and now I’m ready to do the shittin! That’s where I’m coming from.
Hill: Calm down and sit down, I’m not finished with you.
John: You got the file, you don’t need me.
Hill: That temper will get you in trouble here. Check it. And yeah, I need you. That file has the “man’s” version of your life. I want your version.
John: Okay. But you’re wasting your time. Me, I got ten years. Nothing but time.
Hill: Look, I keep up with the news. I know the Governor just fired the whole commission over at TYC for allegations of abuse. Judging by your reactions your claim is true; besides, your claim came sometime before this latest round off claims. Seems like people who take advantage of children are everywhere.
John: Why you go messin with me then?
Hill: I told you. To judge your reactions.
John: What you want to know?
Hill: What you want to tell me?
John: You some kind of shrink or something?
Hill: No. My job is to assign you to a unit based on your crime, your custody level and your attitude.
John: I don’t care where I go. Time is time. Wherever.
Hill: Get real son. This is TDCJ not TYC. You’re not with your peers now. You’re going to be one of the youngest wherever you go. These guys are hard core criminals. Some would kill you for looking at them crosswise. You could land on a gladiator farm where you’d be someone’s gal before you got assigned a bunk. You’ve got ten years. Hell, some of those guy’s parole officer hasn’t even been born yet. They don’t give a damn. Now talk to me.
John: What you want to know?
Hill: What I need to know is why you act out.
John: I’m not acting out.
Hill: I believe you are. You started by setting fire, you vandalize a house, steal, beat up Willy and now you molest a kid. Tell me about your parents.
John: Nothing to tell. They died in a car crash when I was four. Don’t really remember them.
Hill: That when the Wilsons took you in?
John: I guess.
Hill: When did Mr. Wilson start making you do “nasty stuff”?
John: The first day
Hill: A four year old kid!
John: Yeah. He used to act like he was just holding me in his lap, but he kept moving me around. And grunting.
Hill: That’s bad enough, but is that all he did to you?
John: No. When I found out what he was doing I wouldn’t let him hold me anymore.
Hill: What happened then?
John: He made me start touching him. You know, down there.
Hill: How old were you then?
John: Six. Seven.
Hill: You were seven when you tried to burn down the Wilson’s home.
Hill: Why’d you do it?
John: I don’t know.
Hill: Okay, what happened next?
John: I didn’t want to do it but he told me he’d put me in the children’s home and I wouldn’t have anything to eat.
Hill: How long did that go on?
John: About two years I guess.
John: Look, is this necessary?
Hill: Does it bother you to talk about it?
Hill: Have you ever talked about it? That may be all the help you get with it here.
John: I’ve tried to talk about it but nobody believes me.
Hill: I’m listening.
John: But are you believing?
Hill: Yeah. I think I am.
John: When I was about nine he made me, you know, start kissing him, as he put it, down there.
Hill: He made you have oral sex with him.
Hill: At nine you vandalized some houses.
John: Yeah, just something to do.
Hill: Yeah right. What did he do to you at twelve to make you steal?
John: That’s when he started molesting me.
Hill: Son he’d been molesting you since you were four. What did he do differently?
John: If you just gotta know, he started “paintin his stick brown.” That’s what he called it.
Hill: Anal sex?
Hill: But why did he let you go to TYC?
John: Cause I told Mrs. Wilson on him.
Hill: So they got you out of the way for a while.
John: Yeah, old Ralph convinced Mrs. Wilson that I had some sort of edible complex . . .
Hill: You mean an Oedipal Complex?
John: Yeah that. And when I stole that gun they encouraged the juvenile people to take me away.
Hill: But they let you come back into their home. Why?
John: That’s a good question.
Hill: Did. Wilson try anything else?
John: I grew a lot in that year and a half. I saw him looking at me but he was scared to try anything.
Hill: What sort or work does our good old Wilson do?
John: City Councilman.
Hill: I see. All the connections. Why beat up Willy?
John: He’s older than me, but he’s a sissy.
Hill: You best him up because he’s a sissy?
John: Neh, he didn’t like me telling everybody his daddy likes little boys.
Hill: How about you, John? You acquire a taste for little boys?
John: We were just messin around. We was looking at some dirty pictures and just started playing with each other.
Hill: Experimenting, huh? Have you ever done this before?
Hill: How did you get to an adult prison for experimenting?
John: Mr. Wilson said I was incarable.
John: That too. Said I’m always in trouble. Said he’s at wit’s end.
Hill: I’ll bet he did. Probably needed you out of the way so he could get himself another little boy.
John: Yeah, at least he’s rid of me.
Hill: Look, I sense something good in you. I’m going to send you to a unit where there are a lot of older guys who are trying to get something right in their lives. Most of them go to college and mind their own business. You have enough time to finish your G.E.D. and get a college degree yourself. The more education you get the less likely you are to be a repeat offender. The State of Texas got out of the correction business a few years ego and started warehousing people. This is a two billion dollar a year industry and you are a commodity. You have to recognize your own shortcomings and fix them as best you can yourself. IF you go over there causing trouble your little narrow ass will be shipped so fast your coffee won’t get cold. You think you can make me shine on this one?
John: Yes sir.
Hill: And one other thing. When you get there look up one of those writ writers. I’m not versed in the law, but I think the statue of limitations have not run out for what old Ralph done to you. I”d hate to see that son-of-a-bitch get away with it. Don’t worry about those good people over at TYC. The Governor will see that each and every allegation of abuse is investigated and punished.
John: Thank you sir.
Hill: Thank me by staying out of trouble and getting an education. (Lights fade as Hill walks around desk.)
The setting is a dayroom in a cell block of a Texas prison. Multi tiered cell bars can be seen from down left to up left as well as down right to up right. Game tables are from down center to up center. John sits at the table down center. The lights are dim, with only a spot on the table down center. John’s deep thought is broken by the approach of Robert, a fellow inmate in his mid thirties.
Robert: Mind some company?
John: Take a load off.
Robert: Man its five in the morning, why you sitting here so early?
John: This the best time of the day. In a little while you won’t be able to hear yourself think.
Robert: I know that’s right.
John: Radios blaring.
Robert: Dominos slamming.
John: Idiots yelling.
Robert: Why you call them idiots?
John: Well its common knowledge the higher the noise level in an individual, the lower the IQ.
Robert: You may be right.
John: I may be right? Haven’t you heard that empty wagons squeak?
Robert: Yeah, I’ve heard that.
John: Some of these wagons are pretty empty.
Robert: Is that why you’ve taken so many college courses?
John: No. It didn’t start that way at least.
Robert: Man you got what, three degrees, how did it start?
John: A promise.
Robert: A promise?
John: I promised the guy that got me sent here that I’d get an education.
Robert: You’ve certainly done that.
John: Yeah, I guess my obligation was filled once I finished my G.E.D. and got my B.S.
Robert: But you didn’t stop there, why?
John: It gets in your blood I guess.
Robert: I guess it also helps that you have someone with deep pockets.
John: The pockets are my own, and they’re not that deep.
Robert: Come on man, those Masters courses are seven hundred a pop. Kid you have two degrees.
John: Yeah, well the good old state of Texas paid for my bachelors and first Masters. Old man Wilson paid for the other.
Robert: The state? Man Texas ain’t paid for nothing but a bunch of razor wire.
John: Fourteen years ago, when I was twelve, I was at TYC. One of the guards molested me there. When the Governor stepped in a few years later, his investigation found that many of the claims of abuse were true and a lot of people went to jail. I got a B.S. and Masters degree plus fifty thousand per incident.
Robert: And old man Wilson?
John: Well he molested me for years. Just before I turned eighteen I got him brought up on charges. After he was convicted we settled out of court on a civil claim.
Robert: How much you stick him for?
John: Can’t tell.
Robert: You sit here and tell me you got molested, but you can’t tell me how much money you got? Don’t make sense.
John: Court order. And talking about the abuse is all the help I’m going to get from this institution.
Robert: You can always talk to the psych.
John: I did. Twice.
Robert: What he do?
John: All that sucker wanted to do was see me do the Thorazine Shuffle.
Robert: I can just see you walking around like a zombie.
John: I can’t, that’s why I gave up on any help from the state.
Robert: They helped your pockets.
John: The real help was the education.
Robert: You value that over money?
John: Were you asleep in that Justification of Punishment class?
Robert: Some of it, philosophy is your bag not mine.
John: Well the recidivism rate is greatly reduced as the education level is increased.
Robert: Yeah, I’ve heard that.
John: Look, most of these loud mouths that sit around slamming dominos or watching soap operas all day will end up right back here. The state doesn’t care about them. It sure isn’t trying to correct their abnormal behavior.
Robert: They think you’re abnormal, sitting around reading or in deep thought all the time. Like you Plato or somebody.
John: Man leave Plato alone. He had some good things to say.
Robert: Yeah right, like what?
John: Well speaking off abnormal behavior you could apply his statement that “its not like a common cold that will get better on its own;” abnormal behavior left “untreated will only fester.” And, also, like it’s my right to be punished for my crime.
Robert: Man, don’t say that too loud.
John: Really it is. After I’ve been punished can I take my proper place back in society.
Robert: Well you certainly been punished. How long you been locked up?
John: Nine years, eight months and ten days.
Robert: On a ten year sentence!
Robert: How many major cases you had?
John: None. Only one minor.
Robert: Like I said you’ve certainly been punished. You must have about ten years of good time and another five to eight years of work time.
John: Nine years, three months and about fifteen days good time. Seven and change work time.
Robert: Almost twenty-six years on a ten year sentence. What the hell good is good time and work time?
John: Absolutely none.
Robert: Look at that guy Jim, he’s been out twice since you’ve been here. And he stays in trouble.
John: Guys like you and me, we good hos.
Robert: Don’t go there with me! I don’t play the come-on.
John: Its true. We don’t cause our pimp, the state, any problems. We work everyday and bring in plenty of money for him and we mind our own business. We’re not always in lock up or getting cases. We good, profitable hos.
Robert: Well since you put it like that …
John: And pimps don’t get rid of their good hos.
Robert: Maybe I should start getting cases and into trouble.
John: Just remember a major case and you’re out of school for six months.
Robert: Yeah, but maybe I could go home without doing the whole twenty years.
John: Without education you’re likely to reoffend.
Robert: Damned if I do; damned if I don’t.
John: Look man, pretty soon state officials will see that more prisons aren’t the answer. As is they fill up as quick as they build them.
Robert: That’s easy for you to say, you’re out of here in a couple of months.
John: Look they’re already talking about doing something different with non-violent offenders and drug abusers. Your day is coming. Just make sure you get yourself ready.
Robert: Not only do I have to work like a slave for free, I also have to rehabilitate myself.
John: Dr. Beck would say you have to habilitate yourself before you can be rehabilitated.
Robert: Whatever. Are you habilitated?
John: Yeah, I think so.
Robert: How’d you do it?
John: Psychoanalysis. It started in those Behavioral Science classes.
John: Yeah, Pavlov, Classical Conditioning. I’d conditioned myself to do something stupid every time someone abused me.
Robert: You think so, huh?
John: Well I set fire to the room where old man Wilson first abused me. I vandalized houses when he made me perform oral sex on him. I stole when he sodomized me. And I beat up Willy after that guy at TYC abused me.
Robert: I guess you also know why you did it.
John: I can surmise. I set fire to get rid of a place where bad things happened. I vandalized because I felt empty inside and wanted to destroy that emptiness. I stole because something was taken from me. I beat up Willy because I was tired of being the victim.
Robert: Why did you, you know. Do what got you here?
John: Yeah I know. Man we were just experimenting.
Robert: You sure you weren’t trying to do to someone else what happened to you?
John: I know where you are going with this. Look, say I believe that crap about not everyone who is abused abuses, but everyone who abuses was abused. That’s just not what happened with that kid.
Robert: Can you honestly say it won’t happen again?
John: There are no guarantees in life, but I’m truly not turned on by twelve year old boys.
Robert: Some people say it’s an addiction.
John: Yeah but Dr. Stanton Peele thinks we Americans label too many things as addictions.
Robert: What he been drinkin?
John: Nothing. He has a valid point.
Robert: What you been smokin?
John: Look at it from his point of view. We treat addictions as illnesses.
John: Well it’s hard to punish someone for being ill. Addiction implies that a person is less culpable for his actions. I agree with Dr. Peele, we are addicting America.
Robert: You may be a whizkid and all that. Four point oh. But you can’t fix everything yourself. We all need help with some things. Even you.
Voice 1: (Yells from down right.) Hey Coleman! Coleman!
Voice 2: (Yells from up left.) What up fool?
Voice 1: Hurry up so we can get a table to play Dominos.
John: Well, it was nice while it lasted.
(Spot fades as John and Robert stand.)
The setting is the dining room of a single family dwelling. A table, with four chairs, is down center. A man, mid to late forties, sits in chair facing audience. John sits to his left and a woman, about the man’s age, sits to his right. A laptop computer is in the other chair. A window is up left arid twilight is seen through it. There is a door center left and one down right. Dirty dishes are on the table.
Fred; Dear, that was a fine meal.
Wilma: Thank you, Honey.
Fred: John, is anything wrong? You seem distracted.
John: No. Just thinking about classes.
Wilma: How’s school coming?
John: Well, it’s a lot different from what I’m used to.
Fred: You mean you’ve taken doctoral classes before.
John: No. I mean the classes in prison.
Wilma: That fine man that recommended you said that you are a whiz kid. What was his name.
Fred: Dr. Beck.
John: Good old Dr. Beck. He really helped me out a lot. Taught me a lot also.
Fred: So what’s so different? I mean besides being a Texan all the way up here in Philly.
John: Well that’s sure a big change, but mostly the atmosphere in the classes is so different.
Wilma: No one’s picking on you because of your accent are they?
John: No. But I‘m used to small classes where everyone knows everyone else.
Fred: Give it time son, you’ll get to know people.
John: I know, I know. But I have to get to know so much in short order.
Fred: Look son, you’re young and obviously very bright. Everything will work out.
John: Well I guess you’re right. I think I’ve just about mastered one of my problems. (Points at laptop.)
Wilma: You mean that old computer. Those things are easy.
John: For you maybe. I been locked up for ten years. Those things weren’t so popular before I went in.
Fred: Well I’m glad you’re learning how to operate it. There is vast information to be had with that little jewel.
John: That’s another thing, the information, the research material is limitless. In prison the only research material we had access to was what the instructor brought in.
Wilma: Well I’m sure you’ll learn to glean what information you need. Fred and I are here to help.
John: Thank you both. You really helped me enough by taking me in.
Fred: Still, if there’s more we can do let us know.
Wilma: That’s right. And we can start by keeping little Fred out of your hair. You’ve been so good with him. He just loves to be around you.
John: Oh, that little guy is no problem.
Fred: With work and school all you need is a four year old asking you a thousand questions.
Wilma: Speaking of work, how’s your job at the book store coming?
John: I love it. I have lots of time to read and write.(Looks at watch.) Which reminds me, I need to be getting to work now. (John rises and takes laptop from chair before exiting door down right.)
Little Fred: (Enters door center left. and runs and jumps in Wilma’s lap.) Where’s John?
Wilma: (Musses Little red’s hair.) You just missed him.
Fred: He had to work tonight so I guess I’ll have to answer all those questions.
Little Fred: Me and John got a secret.
Wilma: Not me and John, it’s John and I . . .
(Lights fade as Wilma and Fred look at each other with dread).