11 Nov 04

The Move
(Part 1)

Near midnight, a female guard approached my cell, and said,“Roll yer property up. Yer leavin’ tomorrow.”
“Can he take his food with him?” Penguin asked.
“No, he cannot take his food!”
Penguin licked his lips.
I was happy and nervous. I was glad to be getting out of lockdown, to be on my way to a prison where I would be allowed new privileges. I prayed for a good cellmate.
I removed all food from my property boxes. All I had was a quarter jar of Circus Brand Creamy Peanut Butter, two boxes of Keefe Kitchens Snackers Snack Crackers, and five packets of Cactus Annie’s Cheddar Cheese Squeeze Snack. The property being moved included books, toiletries, stationery, correspondence and my written work. I ate the peanut butter and gave the rest to Penguin.
“Ay, England, you leavin’ any food behind?” Mad Dog asked.
The rest of the Chicanos followed suit.
“Fuck Penguin! He’s got plenty of store. Fish that shit up here to us indigent inmates," Mad Dog said in a tone a young lad might use to increase his chances of getting sweets from his parents.
“There’s a box of crackers you can have. Penguin said he’ll fish them up tomorrow. Please be quiet,” I said. “People down here are trying to sleep.”
“Alright, England. Good lookin’ out, dawg!"
“If we don’t catch you tomorrow, good luck, England,” Scooby said.
"Take care, England!”
“I hope to see yer soon, England!”
“Stay away from the cheetos, England!”
“Watch yer back out there, England!”
“Hey, England, fuck you, 'cause I’m still fuckin’ here and you’re leavin’,” Diego said.

At about 6am – before chow was served – a guard approached my cell. I was strip searched, handcuffed through the trap, and escorted through SMU2 to a holding cell to await the arrival of the transportation guards. To kill time, I meditated and did yoga. Four hours later I felt an urge.
“I need to pee,” I yelled through a crack at the side of the trap.
“Okay. Just a minute.”
I was handcuffed and escorted to the inmate restroom. After being uncuffed, I relieved myself with the guard stood behind me.
“You’ve been in there all morning. You want a lunch sack?” he asked, as I was returned to the holding cell.
“Yeah! That would be great. I haven’t eaten all day.” As it wasn’t a vegetarian lunch sack, I just ate the crackers and two pieces of brown bread.

Two hours later, I had given up hope of the transportation officers ever arriving. But at 1pm they came. One of them was a skinny, young African American who wore spectacles and spoke in an effeminate voice. His partner was a redneck with a deep voice. After another strip search, I was escorted from the building.

Farewell SMU, Penguin, Frankie, Barbarian, the young Chicanos, the shitslingers, the darters, the death row and the security-threat-group inmates. Another phase of this journey is over, I thought.

“Pick a seat, the bus is all yours,” the redneck said, as I entered the vehicle. I noticed a Glock holstered at his side.

When my eyes had adjusted to the sunshine, I was able to enjoy the desert and mountain scenery surrounding Florence. On either side of the highway, mountains protruded into an azure sky. Saguaros were everywhere; their horizontal branches made them look like a mrdieval army with swords drawn. Lizards and birds of prey put in occasional appearances.

As the locals drove by, all wearing sunglasses, I examined their rustic faces. I wondered what their everyday lives were like and if they were descendants of European families that had migrated eastwards and captured land from the Native Americans.

Approaching Phoenix, shiny new cars zipped past us. Drivers on cell phones became common. Housing developments and malls replaced the rural scenery. When I saw the areas where I used to live and hang out, I felt sad. I longed to turn back the clock and to be free again. The sight of the skyscraper I had worked in as a stockbroker, caused my mind to fill with memories:
long hours in the office, colleagues (mostly fiesty New York Italians), sales meetings, ruthless bosses, exciting times trading the stock market. How did I get from stockbroker to prisoner? I asked myself. A group of young women, smiling and carefree, came into view, and derailed my train of thought. But not for long. Perhaps I was meant to become a prisoner to achieve my full potential, I wondered.

Eventually we arrived at the exit for Buckeye. We headed south towards Yuma and I read a sign that said we were in the Buckeye Hills. Then another sign warned: DO NOT STOP FOR HITCHHICKERS, ARIZONA STATE PRISON. My anxiety went up. I reminded myself to be pleasant, but also to keep myself to myself as much as possible.

The bus pulled up to the prison’s main gate. I braced myself, as if I were getting onto a roller-coaster ride, for the types of things that happen when a fish arrives at a new prison.
...to be continued

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Anonymous said...

I am writing this to everyone out there whether they are for or against Jon's jailing. Everybody does have and rightfully so the freedom of their opinions. However, the only thing that baffles me is that some, who have never met a person, seen their good and bad, could so hastily jump on the 'punish them they are guilty band wagon.' And how does this happen? Because of the accusations of yet another group of people who also have no care nor concern for the people they are sentencing. Justice is an absolute must, I agree. But why did it turn from justice because of facts,to justice with which highly paid "defender" has the best "gift of gab" to "prove" to the "jurors" who also do not know, the accused person, other than that which to is fed to them? To me it does not seem right, but that is the system. What does surprise me though is that we Americans who, always bitch about taxes, the price of gasoline, housing, any living expense,etc... can seem to justify the money it costs to house an inmate,which is more than most people make working. Guilty? "absolute proven guilt"? Yes, no problem. Guilty probably we think ? No way .
I work too hard for my money. How about when the innocent get set free, which by the way is happening more frequently. Do we as taxpayers get our refund on the wasted money spent to hold them in prison ? Do the innocent parties get their life back? I don't think so. Perhaps we all need to think twice before making the decision......?

we love you Jon,
Barry, Lori, Jaz

Anonymous said...


I thought that Jon's recent post was particularly moving. Having visited the South West about 7 years ago, I well remember driving through Arizona past the prison warning signs. We were on our way to San Diego for a Christmas holiday - rather different circumstances from Jon. It takes enormous character to survive and be as upbeat as Jon manages to sound - I admire him greatly.
Please pass on my best wishes and hopes that his new accommodation will be an improvement.


Anonymous said...

I wish you luck in your new "home". I really admire the way you can keep up your spirits in such awful circumstances.

"Ideas that enter the mind under fire remain there securely and for ever."
- Leon Trotsky

Anonymous said...

I'm a distant friend of Jon's sister
I've just spent the afternoon reading Jon's accounts of his time in jail.
He is such an inspiration in the face of torment.
I can't really believe that this is happening to him, but I know it must be all too real for you.
Enjoy your visit to see Jon.
I'll keep reading Jon's writings with fascination, not just at the subject about which he writes, but at the brilliant way he has with words. He is truly talented.


Anonymous said...

Have a great time. Seen the blog, best regards to Jon. I'll try to put some more ramblings together before you go.
Have a fab Christmas.
All the best,

Anonymous said...

Hi Jon, I just wanted to say i really enjoyed reading your last blog. I know that your parents are flying out to visit you over Christmas. i hope that you settle into your new home quickly and that you have a nice celly. - and also that the food is nice! (well, as nice as it can be!!!).

Hope you have a good Christmas, and enjoy the time you will have with your family,
Good luck - looking forward to the next blogs...as i'm sure hundreds of others are too - please give us a detailed description of Buckeye and co.
Best wishes, and Merry Christmas

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