Derick McCarthy was awarded the Dawson Prize for Nonfiction in the 2018 Prison Writing Contest.
Every year, hundreds of imprisoned people from around the country submit poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and dramatic works to PEN America’s Prison Writing Contest, one of the few outlets of free expression for the country’s incarcerated population. On September 13, PEN America will celebrate the winners of this year’s contest with a live reading at the Brooklyn Book Festival, Break Out: Voices from the Inside.
The Box (The True Account of My First Thirty Days in Solitary Confinement)
“McCarthy!” yelled the Rikers Island C.O.
I walked to the desk knowing there was usually only one reason the C.O. would have called me to the desk at 8:30am. I approached the big bellied, lugubrious officer and he said, “Pack up.”
“Where am I going?”
“I don’t know,” he replied, but I knew.
About two weeks before, after I left the visit room, three other inmates and I were simultaneously strip searched by one C.O. During this search a small balloon fell from one of the guys and landed near me. The C.O. did not see it fall, but discovered it as we left the search area. The balloon that the C.O. recovered contained an ounce of marijuana and, since he found it close to where I was standing, he said it belonged to me. I was given a misbehavior report and subsequently found guilty and sentenced to 90 days in solitary confinement, what we called “the box.”
“They packing you up, scrap?” said Killa, a 30-year-old guy from Brooklyn that I had become friends with in the dormitory. He had dreads and a scar down his right eye. He had an aura of “I seen it all, done it all.” Killa was locked up for a gun charge and had been sitting on Rikers for a year and a half. He was a persistent felon trying to get a cop-out for three years, but the D.A. wasn’t going lower than seven years.
I had only been on Rikers for three months and I was already going to the box. I was nervous and didn’t want to go.
“Yeah, homie I’m going to the box. Damn! I just went to commo, too,” I said knowing that I couldn’t take any food with me.
“Don’t worry, the homies is gonna take care of that for you,” Killa said sarcastically, with a big smile. Homie, fool and scrap are terms used to identify other Blood gang members.
“You want to know a trick not to go to the box, though?” Killa continued.
“How?” I said anxiously, willing to try anything to not go.
“You’ve got to boof a battery,” Killa said. “That way you can’t clear the mag. And if you can’t clear the mag, the box won’t accept you.”
On Rikers inmates tend to hide small amounts of drugs or razors in their rectum, which is called boofing. They do this because the C.O.s are not allowed to give you a cavity search, so once something is up there it can remain undetected.
“McCarthy! Are you ready?” yelled the C.O. “They’ll be here to pick you up in 15 minutes.”
I was going to try Killa’s idea; anything was worth a shot to keep me from going to the box. I had never boofed before in the streets, but I learned how to do it in jail. It was a must-have skill if you were going to carry contraband. At first I thought it was going to be painful, but it’s not. It just feels a little uncomfortable when it’s in you, like you have to take a shit.
I grabbed a battery, put it in a finger of a plastic glove, put Vaseline on it, went into the bathroom and boofed it. I then quickly packed all my property and gave all the homies my food.
“If I’m not back by dinner, then it didn’t work,” I told them and left with the C.O. that came to escort me to intake.
I sat in intake for two and a half hours until the bus that would take me to the box arrived. When I boarded the bus there were two other guys on it. The bus stopped at two more buildings and picked up three more people; it was six of us all heading to the box.
“I just left the box, last month,” a fat, dark-skinned young kid, around 19 years old, with nappy cornrow braids said.
“You know they stay with late nite in there,” another tall light-skinned young kid, maybe 19 or 20 years old, with a full beard said. Late nite is what we call marijuana.
“My weight is up, I’m gonna get my whip ASAP.” A small portable radio was called a whip. You’re not allowed to have your radio in the box, but some people still do.
“I only got 30 days, so I’m going to the cookie floor.” The cookie floor is a house in the box where you’re able to purchase commissary and have your radio. You normally go there when you have under 45 days in the box, which was rare.
As I listened to how excited they sounded, I wondered how anyone could be this thrilled to go to the box. Why? I thought. No commo, no yard, no phone, no radio, no cooking doesn’t sound like fun to me.
We finally arrived at a five-story grey and blue building. As I got off the bus I could hear two guys having a weird kind of long distance conversation out of their windows.
“Did you! Did you! Tell her! Tell her! Not to! Not to! Come up!” one guy yelled. “She said! She said! She’s still! She’s still! Coming!” another guy yelled back.
I would later learn that this is how you communicate through the window to ensure that you hear each other.
I entered the box, not knowing what to expect. I saw two tiers of about fifty cells; some doors were open, a few were closed. This I would later find out was the intake.
“Name,” C.O. Hernandez asked me. He was a tall, lanky, Spanish man in his late forties and spoke with an accent. You could tell, by the way he spoke to the C.O. that drove us there, he was a masher.
“McCarthy,” I replied, and he looked through the folders he had in his hand until he found mine with my picture on it.
“Book and case number?”
“Four, four, one, oh, four, oh, three, four, four, four,” I replied. He motioned for me to go toward C.O. Smith. She was a pretty, short, black woman in her mid-twenties. Her uniform was skin tight, which was not uncommon for female C.O.s, and she had a bodacious body. She was chewing gum and wore the sweetest perfume I had ever smelled. You could tell she had a little sass to her, too. I instantly had a crush on her. She un-cuffed me and told me to put my property through an x-ray machine, the kind that you see in airports and urban area high schools. I did.
“Walk through the mag,” she said.
Immediately I noticed this wasn’t the regular mag that I was used to seeing; this one was different. As I walked through it, it rang beep, beep, beep, beep, and it lit up red lights on the sides.
“Walk through it again,” she said as another C.O. came over to observe.
Beep, beep, beep, beep. This time I noticed that the lights would only light up on the area it detected metal, which was my waist.
“Do his records say he has metal in him?” Smith asked Hernandez, who already was looking in my folder.
“Nope. He’s got something in his ass,” replied Hernandez. “Put him in the isolation cell and let him sit there for however long it takes him to get it out.”
I felt embarrassed as Smith escorted me five feet away to a cell with just a window and a toilet, with a screen in it to prevent anything solid from going down it. I figured that the C.O.s were bluffing and wouldn’t let me sit in here long, so I just waited and looked out the window.
When I saw the bus that brought me here drive off, my jaw dropped. The plan hadn’t worked. I was staying in the box. So, I pushed the battery out, hid it under the toilet and called for the C.O.
“You’re going to clear the mag, now?” Hernandez asked me and I nodded my head. He brought me out and I walked through the mag. This time there wasn’t any flashing lights or beeping. He then perfunctorily walked me up to the second tier and put me in another empty cell exactly like the one I was just in, only this time the toilet didn’t have a screen in it. He left and came back with a tray of food for me; brown rice with ground beef in it, soggy vegetables, a yellow mush that I couldn’t decipher, and four slices of bread. The whole tray had a repugnant odor to it. I ate only the bread, which left a funny aftertaste in my mouth, pushed the tray out of the bottom of the door, and fell asleep on the floor.
I awoke to someone yelling. I got up and looked out the cell door window. There were five C.O.s dressed in protective riot gear. They had helmets with eye visors on them and protective padding on their chest, knees, elbows, and shins. One of the C.O.s had a shield and another one had a video camera taping two officers that were dragging another inmate. The inmate was handcuffed and his feet were shackled. His limp body appeared to be dead as one C.O. dragged him by each arm, leaving behind streaks of blood on the floor.
“You ain’t so fucking tough now,” one of the C.O.s said, appearing to get infuriated that the lifeless body wasn’t responding. He punched him in the side of his head. “Huh, you little bitch?”
All I could do is watch in astonishment until they were out of my range of view. I shook my head and sat on the toilet. Suddenly, my cell door opened. I jumped to my feet, thinking that I would be assaulted next just for being a witness. C.O. Cole came in and handcuffed me to the railing on the tier. He was of average height, a stocky black man with a bald head in his thirties. He went through my property, separating what I could take inside the box with me and what would remain in my locker until I left the box. I was placed back in the cell with the property I was allowed to keep: three pairs of socks, boxers and t-shirts, one pair of basketball shorts, shower slippers, some cosmetics, and a few magazines. Cole then gave me a brown jumper and a small white towel, two white sheets, and a pillowcase wrapped up on a battered blanket.
“Put on the jumper and get ready to leave,” he said. You weren’t allowed to wear personal clothes in the box, instead you had to wear a brown one-piece jumper whenever you came out of your cell to go anywhere. I took off my clothes, put on the jumper, wrapped my property in a sheet, and he handcuffed me.
I didn’t know what to expect as we walked down the steps toward a large glass door. The only thing I knew about the box was that it was the mecca of gang activity. Gangs probably made up 80 percent of the box population. If you weren’t a gang member going in, you’d likely be one coming out.
The door opened and we approached a giant bubble, an area were all the information on the inmates in the unit is kept and where a C.O. sits and can control the opening and closing of all the cells; it is often enclosed with glass on all sides, hence the name bubble. Cole handed my floor card through a small slot to the C.O. inside. A floor card is a small card with my picture, book and case number, birthday, arresting charge, bail amount, classification, and any other important information that an escorting officer would need to know, i.e. spitter, cuff to the front, double escort, slips out of cuffs, etc. This is assessed by various incidents that an inmate may have had. The housing unit doors opened.
As soon as we walked through the door, it hit me like a punch in the face—the stagnant aroma of marijuana, cigarettes, and wicks burning; I’m surprised the C.O. working the floor didn’t catch a contact high every day. It looked just like intake, except every door was closed and it was very, very loud, as if everyone was talking to each other all at once. There were two tiers, and each one had twenty-five cells on it. Each cell door had a window and a rectangular slot, which could be opened to put a tray of food through. However, the cells on the bottom tier had a rectangular box with Plexiglas on their doors that I had never seen before.
“He’s going to thirty bix bell,” C.O. Mendez, the officer in charge of the floor, told Cole. Replacing the c’s in a word and the s in six with b’s is how the Bloods spoke as a form of disrespect toward their rival gang, the Crips. Being around and talking to so many gang members on a daily basis tended to influence the way some C.O.s spoke, but it in no way meant that they themselves were gang affiliated.
Mendez was a muscular, Spanish guy with cornrows on his head and a swag to him. He had to be in his early twenties and moved as if he was more down with the inmates than his fellow officers. This is true of most C.O.s on Rikers Island, because they come from, and still reside in, the same communities we come from. They have the same friends we had and were faced with the same obstacles we faced growing up. A lot of them had even dabbled in criminal activity before, but were fortunate to never get caught and then get jobs as Correction Officers. They understood what we’re going through and how easily it could have been them.
Before we could start walking, Mendez cupped his hands around his mouth and roared, “DEAD MAN WALKING!”
Suddenly, the whole house erupted, “WHO DAT, WHO DAT, WHO DAT, WHO DAT.” People were banging on their doors and staring out their windows. Who dat is a term used by the Bloods to state that someone is an enemy or a fake Blood and will be assaulted.
Me, being a member of the Bloods at that time, yelled back “Never who dat!” while being escorted by up the stairs to my cell. “Blood up! Blood up!”
Cole placed me in my cell and signaled to the C.O. in the bubble to close the cell’s electronic door. Once it was closed, he un-cuffed me through the slot. The cell was different from the one in intake. It had a desk that was part of the wall. The bed was in a rounded rectangle shaped hole carved out of the wall by the window; it was just a flat plastic mattress without a pillow. What was the pillowcase for? I thought. There was also a toilet and a sink with a scratched up and foggy mirror made of metal, not glass. The window had been closed, so my cell was hot and stuffy. The homies started yelling up to me, talking from under or the side of their cell doors. They all introduced themselves to me. To my surprise, I already knew a few of them. Mendez came to my cell door and said, “What’s poppin’?”
“That 5,” I replied. The Bloods used certain numbers to represent them, 5, 21, 59, and 31. These numbers were considered to always be poppin’.
“Ahight, you need the phone?”
He then pulled a grey flat phone from his pocket, plugged it into a phone jack on the side of my cell, and slid it under my door.
“You only get one bix minute call a day,” he told me, in an affable manner.
I made my phone call and started to unpack my stuff. While I was unpacking, the SPA (Suicide Prevention Aide) came to my door and slid some magazines under it. The SPA was an inmate who was not in the box, but was allowed to move around the box floor checking on guys and making sure no one hangs up (commits suicide); what he really did was pass magazines and contraband all day long. The SPA was a short, fat guy in his late thirties with a receding hairline and waves in his hair. He wore black fingerless mittens; I would later find out this was to prevent him from passing things for us, but it didn’t work.
“That’s from Ado,” he said and left. Ado was one the homies I knew from Queens. He was in his mid-twenties, light-skinned, chubby, and had a chipped tooth. He was locked up for an attempt murder charge. Last time I saw him was at court and I had forgot he had been in the box for the past 11 months. Inside the magazines was a stick (a small marijuana cigarette), a whip, and a note from Ado that read, “YO BALI. IF U NEED ANYTHING ELSE HOLLA @ ME. I GOT U HOMIE. I’M IN 18 BELL. USE MY WHIP 4 THE NIGHT. I’LL GET URS OUT UR LOCKER 2MORROW. GO 2 THE YARD IN THE A.M. POLICE WALK @ 7. B ON UR GATE. -ADO BRIM.”
I put my earbuds on and lit the stick.
“Maybe the box isn’t going to be as bad as I thought it would be,” I said to myself as I laid back on my bed.
Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
A few days had passed and I had gotten used to the workings of the box. It was a daily routine of the same thing: breakfast at 6am, recreation at 7am, showers at 8am, lunch at 11am, take a nap at 12pm, mail at 2pm, and dinner at 5pm. The only thing that would change up the monotony of this routine were the visits that occurred Wednesday and Thursday evenings and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings.
When you first arrive in the box you must do something called getting your weight up, which is essentially having clout. In the beginning, the C.O.s don’t know you, so they’ll shit on you; this is called not having your weight up. You’ll come out last for the showers or you might not get one, you’ll get the phone last, you won’t go to rec or your food tray might contain a small portion of food or be cold, plus a lot of other disrespectful things that might happen when you deal with a C.O. Getting your weight up is not hard to do but it is not easy either; everyone in the box does not have or will not get their weight up. Getting your weight up has to do with a combination of things. First, the guys who have been in the box the longest or those who already have their weight up must jack you. Jack is a term that we use to express that we accept and respect another person and/or their actions, i.e. I jack the way he is handling that. The C.O.s must see that other people with their weight up jack you. The SPA and other inmates must jack you. You must make small talk with other C.O.s so that they can jack you also. Secondly, you must not tolerate any disrespect from anyone. Any aggression or disrespect toward you from another inmate or C.O. must be handled swiftly and possibly with violence. You can accomplish this in a few days, a few weeks, or a few months, but once you are jacked, you have started to get your weight up. There are other ways to get your weight up, but these are the most common.
There are different levels to having your weight up: the first level is having your weight up a little bit, meaning you can do a little bit of things like get the phone next if certain people aren’t waiting for it, maybe a little extra food on your tray (if it is available), and a few other small things. This level is normally achieved by association, hanging with someone with their weight up. The second level is having your weight halfway up, meaning you can pick what shower you want to go into, the SPA comes when you call him, you might be given some drugs if they’re in the housing unit, you’ll get extra food on your tray unless the food amount is short, you’ll be able to have your whip, and a few other things. The third level is having your weight all the way up, which means you do whatever you want. The C.O.s come when you call them, you can pick when and what shower you’ll get in, you’ll always have extra food, even when it’s short they’ll call the mess hall to get you more, you get the phone exactly when you want it, no matter who had next, they’ll wake you up to go to rec, you’ll go to the barbershop every week, when they search your cell they will not take anything from you, the SPA will cook for you, everyone, even Captains, stop at your cell to talk to you, and you receive some of every drug in that comes into the house. Basically, you run the place.
About two weeks had passed and little by little, I had started to get my weight up. I started being able to pick the shower I wanted to use. I would get a little extra food on my tray, and I wouldn’t get skipped for the phone. The C.O.s were even starting to jack me.
C.O. Barsdale worked the 3-11 shift when Mendez was off. He was a tall, dark-skinned, husky man in his late thirties with 360° waves in his hair. He carried himself with a don’t-care-about-inmates attitude. He had been on vacation for two weeks and now he was back. He had saw me when I first came to the box, but was not around to witness me getting my weight up.
It was dinner time and Barsdale, along with the SPA, were giving out the food trays on the top tier. When they reached my cell Barsdale opened my slot and the SPA handed him a tray with four pieces of fish on it and mashed potatoes.
“Take those fish off the tray,” Barsdale told the SPA. You’re only supposed to get two pieces of fish, but since my weight was up a little bit now, I was getting four. The SPA took the extra fish off my tray.
“Barsdale, what are you doing?” I said to him, but he ignored me and placed my tray on the slot.
“Barsdale, you violating,” I said again with anger in my voice.
“Are you gonna take the tray or not?” Barsdale asked me, as if he was doing nothing wrong.
I took my tray and sat on my bed, fuming mad. How dare he disrespect me, I thought. I got on my vent and called down to 11 cell. In the box a group of four cells are connected by a heating vent. Two on the top tier and two on the bottom tier. On the top tier I was connected to 37 cell, which had an older man named OT in it. On the bottom tier I was connected to 11 and 12 cell. In the 11 cell was the big homie named F.D. A big homie is someone with a high ranking in the Blood gang. F.D. stood for Father Divine; he was a 40-something-year-old fat man with grey hair and a receding hairline, but he was a gangster. F.D. had been sentenced to a three to six in 1991, but continued to receive additional sentences for crimes he committed while in jail, i.e. various assault charges, weapon possession charges, possession of drugs charges, etc. He was in the box because when he had come down from an upstate jail to Rikers for Family Court, he had cut a Crip. 12 cell was empty.
“Yo, F.D.!” I yelled into the vent.
“What’s up lil’ bro?” he replied.
“The C.O. deaded me on my extra fish, homie.”
“You didn’t get your tray, scrap?”
“Nah, I got my shit but Barsdale tells the SPA to take the extra fish off my tray. He violated, yo.”
“You got your food though, right?”
“Yeah, but that’s not the point, Barsdale violated.”
“Don’t worry about that lil’ homie, I’m a talk to him when he comes down here.”
I was still upset. I walked around my cell thinking about what I could do to get back at Barsdale. I wanted to fight him. How was I going to fight Barsdale? I thought. I can’t get out my cell this time of night. Maybe I should splash him. (Splashing is when you throw a liquid, normally urine, on someone. This is commonly done by filling an empty toothpaste tube with the liquid, positioning it under your door, and when the C.O. walks by on the bottom tier, you stomp on it causing it to spray out on them.) I know what I’m going to do.
I sat in my cell and waited patiently until Barsdale finally came around and asked me if I wanted the phone.
“Yeah, let me get it,” I said. Barsdale plugged the phone in on the side of my cell door and slid the phone underneath my door. I made my call and waited for him to come back.
“You done with the phone?” Barsdale asked me.
“You’re not getting that back,” I calmly said.
“What! Let me get that phone.”
“You want this phone, you have to come in here and get it.”
Barsdale walked away from my cell and yelled, “This fuckin’ lil’ bitch in thirty bix bell is holding the phone, so the SPA is dead for the night.”
Immediately homies started yelling up to me to find out why I was holding the phone.
“Yo Bali, what’s up?” Ado yelled up to me. “Why you sticking up the phone, Blood!” Sticking up is a term that we use whenever you hold onto something or refuse to leave an area, i.e. sticking up the shower.
“Barsdale violated!” I yelled back from under my cell door.
“What’d he do?”
“He violated my food and tried to play me.”
“Aight homie. You know they gonna come in your cell to get that phone.”
“Yeah, I know. I want Barsdale to come in and get it,” I said, “Yo Barsdale! Suit up!”
C.O.s were not allowed to ever open any cell or area where an inmate was at unless that inmate was cuffed. Whenever you refused to get cuffed and the C.O.s had to physically remove you or an object out of your cell or area, they’ll bring in what is called an extraction team; a group of randomly picked C.O.s, usually the biggest ones on duty, that would wear helmets and riot gear paddings to protect their chest, knees, shins, and elbows, and carried wooden batons. They’d come to where you’re at, enter the area, subdue you, cuff your hands, shackle your legs, and drag you out. All of this is done while another C.O. records the incident with a video camera for security purposes. Of course, while they’re extracting you they’re also beating the shit out of you, but somehow the video footage is always unsteady and never shows the C.O.s assaulting you.
I put on my brown jumper, tied my sneakers tight, and waited for the extraction team, hoping that Barsdale would be on it. Suddenly I heard someone calling me from the tier. “Bali! Bali!” I looked out my cell door and saw Money A, across the tier, in 47 cell with his slot open. Barsdale opened his slot to give him something and Money A stuck his arm out of it so he couldn’t close it. Money A was a brown-skinned homie, in his early twenties.
He had gold and diamond caps on his front teeth and wore diamond earrings in both ears. We started talking on our way to court the previous week and we just clicked. He was from Far Rockaway, Queens and was flashy; my type of guy.
“We sticking it up Blood. They take you, they gotta come and get me too,” Money A yelled and then started laughing.
“You guys really think that y’all tough, right. Just don’t bitch up when we come in there,” Barsdale yelled up to both of us from the bottom tier.
“Suck my dick, Barsdale!” I yelled down to him.
He made his way up to my cell door and said, “All this for some fish?” He looked more annoyed than angry.
“Yup, you played yourself,” I said.
“I should open this door and whup your ass.”
“Yeah do that. Come in here and I’m going to fuck up,” I said with my 120-pound frame shaking from all the adrenaline in my body.
“You gonna give me that phone,” Barsdale said and grabbed the phone cord outside of my door. I grabbed on the phone and pulled it back. The cord popped. We both yelled obscenities at each other until he laughed at me and walked away. F.D. heard all the yelling through the vent and yelled up to me.
“Bali, you alright?” F.D. asked
“Yeah bro, this cop really thinks he’s so tough. He tried to pull the phone out of my cell. Word to Blood, I’m a fuck him up.”
F.D. laughed and said, “Calm down lil’ bro, I’m a talk—Yo Barsdale!” Barsdale had walked past F.D. cell and he jumped off the vent to talk to him. “Let me get that phone.”
I put my ear to the vent. I could just make out pieces of F.D. speaking to Barsdale. At first he was talking then he started yelling. I couldn’t hear everything, but I could make out words like “bitch,” “your mother,” and “come and get it.” When F.D. came back to the vent he said, “Fuck him.”
“Yo what happened?” I asked.
“He’s a bitch. Fuck that, I got the other phone and I ain’t giving it back. They gotta come and get me too.”
“Yeah big homie! We outta here,” I said with excitement for all the camaraderie. It had started with me feeling disrespected and wanting to do something about it, now I got two other homies ready to get extracted with me. Even though I knew we were in a no-win situation, I still felt good. I felt like the homies really jacked me.
Two hours had passed and nothing had happened. Money A had his slot tied up with a towel so that a C.O. couldn’t sneak up and close it. F.D. and I both had the phones and we weren’t giving them back.
I was on my vent talking to F.D. when Capt. Hayes, the housing unit captain, knocked on my door. Capt. Hayes was a dark-skinned, older man in his forties with a bald head and a gold tooth. He was, for the most part, a reasonable man. He stood at my cell door with a tray in his hand.
“Listen McCarthy, I understand that this whole mess is over some extra fish,” he said.
“Give me back the phones and tell 47 cell to close his slot and l’ll give all three of y’all a whole tray of fish,” he said pointing to the tray the SPA was holding.
“Nah Hayes, this ain’t about no fish,” I explained. “This is about respect and Barsdale doesn’t respect me.”
“So what now?” he asked.
“I want him to suit up, come in here, and fight me.”
“Listen young man, if we come in there it won’t end nicely.”
“I don’t care. Tell Barsdale to suit up, come in here first, and I bet you I’ll knock his head off.”
Hayes shook his head in disappointment and walked away with the SPA. I got back on the vent and told F.D. what had happened.
It was getting late and the extraction team hadn’t shown up yet, but we knew they were coming because Barsdale had left the housing unit and another C.O. had taken his place. The house was as quiet as a library when suddenly someone yelled, “HERE THEY COME!” jumped up and ran to my cell door. The whole house erupted and everyone was banging on their doors and yelling at the extraction team.
I saw five C.O.s and a captain come into the housing unit wearing riot gear. One C.O. had a shield, one had a video camera, and three of them had batons. The captain was carrying handcuffs and leg shackles. Two of the C.O.s with batons were probably two of the biggest C.O.s I had ever seen at that time. The third C.O., I’m sure, was Barsdale, but I couldn’t see his face because he had his visor down on his helmet. I could tell that the captain was Hayes and the person holding the video camera was a lady I didn’t know. They marched up the stairs to Money A’s cell and aligned themselves on the right side of the door. Hayes then went in front of the cell positioning the shield in front of him.
“I’m giving you a direct order to remove the towel from your slot and allow me to close it,” said Hayes. At that moment a splash of liquid came out of the cell’s slot and hit the shield. Hayes moved to the side and handed the shield to another C.O., who positioned himself in front of the cell. The shield then started to spark and blue streaks of electricity danced across it. I was shocked (no pun intended) to find out that it was an electric shield and immediately felt scared for Money A. How was he going to fight against electricity? I thought. The C.O.s were positioned to enter the cell one after the other and Hayes was in the back with the camera lady.
“Open up 47,” Hayes said into his walkie talkie.
I didn’t know this at the time but, when you get extracted, the key is to try to make it out of the cell onto the tier so that the C.O.s won’t be able to beat you up. If they still beat you up, one of the many cameras on the tier will record it and you will have a winnable lawsuit on your hands.
As the cell door slid open, Money A tried to run out of the cell, but was pushed back by the C.O. with the shield. You could hear the crackling from the electricity going through it. My cell was across the tier, but at that moment the unit was dead silent. All you heard was the C.O.s in the cell yelling, “STOP RESISTING! STOP RESISTING!” A good two minutes went by and they finally emerged from the cell with Money handcuffed behind his back and with his legs shackled. A C.O. held his arms on both sides and escorted him down the steps and out the door. They were walking fast, forcing him to try and walk at their pace. Money A had the movements of a punch-drunk boxer as he tried to walk with the leg shackles on.
As this was happening, everyone was back on their doors screaming and banging. I was in my cell, my body full of adrenaline. I was jumping up and down ready for them to come and get me next. I was in my cell angry at what they just did to Money A. I wanted to make them pay for that.
“NEXT!” I yelled from my cell door. “NEXT!” However, I didn’t want to get electrocuted, so I had to come up with a plan. I decided to flood my cell, if there was water on the floor they couldn’t use electricity. I stuffed my towel in my toilet and started flushing until it overflowed onto the floor. I continued to do this until my entire cell floor was flooded. I was ready.
I waited and waited and nothing happened. It hit eleven o’clock and the lights on the tiers went out. It was over. They weren’t coming to extract me or F.D.
“Yo, F.D.,” I called into the vent. “Yo,” F.D. responded. “What do you think is going on? They’re not coming to get us?”
“Looks like it.”
I was disappointed. I laid on my bed fully dressed with my sneakers on and sulked.
Before you knew it I had fallen asleep.
“WATERFALL! WATERFALL!” someone yelled to warn the house of what was about to happen. Waterfall is what we called a search. I jumped out of my sleep, forgetting I had water on the floor and splashed in it running to the door. It was about eight o’clock in the morning.
“Yo Bali get up they’re coming,” F.D. yelled through the vent.
I looked out my cell door window and saw three C.O.s and a captain on the other side of the tier about to search a cell. I also saw the extraction team walking on the bottom tier headed toward F.D.’s cell. It wasn’t the same people from last night, they were a lot smaller. I jumped on the vent to warn F.D.
“F.D. they’re coming to your bell right now,” I yelled into the vent. He didn’t respond.
“F.D.! F.D.! F.D.!” I yelled. Then I heard him through the vent yelling, “Come on, motherfuckers.” I heard his door opening then a lot of tussling.
“STOP RESISTING! STOP RESISTING!” was being yelled by the C.O.s. There was some more tussling for about 40 seconds, then F.D. was taken out his cell. I looked out my cell window, but I couldn’t see him. They were coming for me next. I started amping myself up, jumping around in my still flooded cell. Come on, come on. Maybe 10 minutes had gone by and they were at my cell door.
“Give us the phone and place your hands through the slot so we can cuff you,” a captain with his helmet visor down said.
I stood there swinging the phone by the cord. “You want this phone? Come and get it,” I said then swung the phone against the wall smashing it to pieces.
My cell door began to slide open and as the C.O. with the shield started to come in, I charged at him. I ran at him, somewhat running up his shield and punching him in the head. After that, it was all downhill for me.
I was immediately slammed to the ground in my flooded cell. A knee was on my upper back while my head was being held down. My cell floor contained about two inches of water and with my face in it, I felt like I was drowning.
“STOP RESISTING! STOP RESISTING!” the C.O.s yelled while pulling my hands behind my back in efforts to cuff me. I was struggling to keep my face out of the water and the feeling of drowning caused me to panic. I wasn’t resisting. I couldn’t breathe and my body was reacting on its own because I needed air. Someone was trying to grab my legs, but I was struggling like a seven-year-old boy being forced to take a bath. Somehow, through all of this they managed to cuff both of my hands behind my back. One of the C.O.s then took my left hand and twisted it forward. I felt a crack in my wrist and the pain shot through my entire body. I screamed, “AAAAAHHHHHHH” and then my body went limp. At that moment they shackled my flaccid legs and picked up my lifeless body. I was soaking wet.
A C.O. held my arm on both sides and they quickly walked/dragged me down the tier toward the steps. My legs were shackled which prevented me from taking long strides, and with each step the metal shackle jerked around my ankle, causing excruciating pain. It was extremely difficult to walk, let alone fast, but the C.O.s did not care.
We went down the steps and out the housing unit. We kept walking in silence and I was scared out of my mind. What are they going to do with me? Lord, please don’t let them kill me in here. I can’t die in jail. Not like this. We finally arrived at the medical unit. They took me into a room with an examining table, propped me on it, and handcuffed my already handcuffed hands to a wall. I sat there in pain from my wrist and my ankles. I knew what was next, so I braced myself as best as I could. The C.O. with the camera had left and it was just me and the three other C.O.s. They took off their helmets and to both my surprise and disappointment none of them was C.O. Barsdale.
“Look at my uniform,” a light-skinned, husky man with dreads said. “I’m soaked.” He looked down at his clothes then up at me and punched me in the face. My ears rang out. Another C.O. then punched me in my stomach and I hunched over yanking the cuffs and hurting my already hurt wrist; the pain caused me to sit back up.
“Oh he’s a tough guy. He wants more,” another C.O. said. He was short and muscular with a low haircut. He swung at my face, but I moved and he hit my collar bone. He grabbed his baton and hit me in my shin.
“AAAAHHHHHHHHH,” I screamed. The pain from that hit hurt so much that I started to tear up.
“Oh don’t cry now, after you fucked my uniform up. Your mama ain’t here to wipe your tears, bitch,” the other C.O. said. He was a large white man with a bald head. He reached back to punch me and I closed my eye and tried my best to brace myself, but the captain walked in.
“That’s enough,” he said. “The nurse is about to come in.”
I never felt so relieved in my life. The nurse entered the room and the C.O.s uncuffed me so the nurse could examine me. The nurse was a West Indian woman with grey hair in her late fifties; she reminded me of my grandmother a little bit. She examined different parts of my body. When she touched my wrist and shoulder I tensed up.
“We will put you in to get x-rays,” she said in a caring but nonchalant voice. The three C.O.s remained in the room and she continued to examine me and also asked me a few questions, but none of the questions were about what had happened to me. I’m sure my injuries were consistent with that of an assault, but I said nothing and she didn’t ask.
The C.O.s escorted me to another room where the x-rays were performed on me. After that I was taken back to the examining room, where the nurse examined my results.
“You have a hairline fracture in your collarbone and wrist,” she said and started to wrap my hand in a plastic half cast with an ace bandage.
“Take these for the pain,” she said and handed the C.O. a bottle of pills.
“Tell sick call if you need anymore and I will schedule for a follow up with a doctor in two weeks,” she said. “Take it easy, Mr. McCarthy and you’ll heal just fine,” as she walked out of the room.
The C.O.s then cuffed me to the front and we left the clinic, this time without the shackles on my legs, but still with two C.O.s escorting me. When I got back to the housing unit I was being put in 47 cell. As I was being escorted up the stairs the whole house erupted in cheers.
“YEEAAAHHH! SOO WOO! SOO WOO! BBBDDDDDDAAAAAAATTTTTTTTTTTT! BBBBBBBBBBDDDDDDDAAAAAATTTTTTT!” and banging is all I heard. Soo woo and bdat are Blood calls. I couldn’t help but smile a little bit. When I got into my new cell, all my stuff from 36 cell was in there. I peeled off my damp clothes, made my bed as best as I could, and fell asleep.
I woke up that night to a C.O. at my door with my food tray on my opened slot.
“Yo, you wanna eat,” he said banging on my door with his keys. It was a C.O. I had never seen before.
“Yeah,” I replied and hobbled to the slot in pain. He handed me a tray with two pieces of chicken on it and brown rice. (You are only supposed to get one piece of chicken with this meal.) I took my tray, sat on my bed with a big Kool-Aid smile.
My weight was officially up.