Guest Writer: Brandon the Occult Killer
Sue-O is a regular commenter at Jon’s Jail Journal. Her son, Brandon, is in prison. I recently asked Sue to see if Brandon would like to write some pieces for Jon’s Jail Journal. Here’s Brandon’s first piece.
Little mental picture here. I’m typing this sitting on the toilet with my wordsmith 250 perched on top of two stacked cardboard records’ boxes, aided by a cup of Nescafe freeze-dried coffee and a midnight-special cigarette with the desk dominated by my cellie. This is the only work station left. Gives a whole new meaning to “multi-tasking.”
Where should I begin? I was asked by my mother, Susan, (or Mumsy as us kids affectionately call her) to participate in JJJ. Specifically, she asked me for my perspective as a “first timer” in state prison. I’ll relate to you all as best I can, censor as much criminally opportunistic thought and poor grammar as possible, but be aware that prolonged exposure to jail has warped my fragile, little mind.
I could never stand written introductions, it feels too much like an AA meeting over Instant Messenger or watching someone write my memoirs for me. Picture those tags that say “HELLO my name is…” with a big space for your Sharpie-scrawled signature. Let’s give it a try. “HELLO my name is…Brandon, and I am an inmate! YAY! Awesome. Now we know each other, but this isn’t about you, it’s about me. Honest mistake, try not to make it again. Also, don’t be afraid of my odd humor. It’s like a Saltine, dry as hell, but great with wine and cheese. Tasty! Moving on, I am currently being held prisoner by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, a.k.a PennDOC, serving a sentence of no less than 6, no more than 12 years. We go min/max in PA, no straight tickets here. Very deceiving. PennDOC is not to be confused with PennDOT, our Dept. of Transportation. The main difference being, if we’re ever sent out to fix a road, we’d actually have to DO it. Picture that scene from “Cool Hand Luke”.
My home jail is a little slice of Heaven’s Red Light District called SCI Somerset, located high atop the Allegheny Mountains in a town of the same name. It comes from an Old English word meaning “Land of Summer.” As you would expect, it’s every bit a misnomer as “Greenland.” In Greenland’s defense, their name doesn’t actually suggest a warm climate, just greenness. Anyhow, seasons in Somerset play out more like Atomic Doomsday in London rather than actual seasons. It’s grey, foggy, and raining, then there’s a sudden blast of hot, fiery death, followed by a century long nuclear winter rivaling the cold vacuum of space. A little extreme, a little exaggerated, but only the part about the vacuum.
When I was first taken into custody, I was 19. Before this, I had a single juvenile case at age 17, in penal terms I’m an infant, a neophyte. You don’t get much fresher than that. I didn’t know what to expect, all I knew was from movies and TV, guys raped in the showers, beaten to death in broom closets, chain gangs, forced labor, CO brutality, all that crap. And I was scared. Adding to my concern, the county jail separates its populations by severity of crime, and as they say in prison argot, I “had a body.” Very simply put, I was D.U.I., I crashed, somebody died. An incredibly tragic accident. Due to an ongoing negative personal and professional relationship with the local police, they spared no unpleasantness. I would be placed in isolation for an indeterminate amount of time (for my own protection, of course), then moved to maximum security with the worst of the worst.
My isolation block consisted of 6 individual cells, a shower stall, and a tinted shatter-proof lexan observation window. Below the window was a slot, somewhat like the old drive-through bank teller window with the drawer. This is where a CO would drop soap when you came out for a shower. My blockmates on the whole were, by definition, raving mad. All hours of the day and night they screamed and pitched fits until they fell asleep from sheer exhaustion or were forcibly medicated. I just stared blankly out the window of my new home, which had gone translucent with grime, naked except for the blue, body-length anti-suicide gown, rigid as a flak jacket, pondering possible turns of my predicament. This form of torture lasted only a day or so, but in that time I met a religious fanatic who was convinced I was an extra-terrestrial demon sent to kill him, a man who painted his cell with feces and was deathly afraid of his own reflection, and a transvestite from San Francisco, or “Frisco” as he put it, who was too interested in me for my comfort. I attract older women and trannies. Nice. I was moved from isolation to low-security observation, a dedicated cell on a regular block with petty criminals. Here I was free to be gawked at through the open bars as the latest life-taker in my community. I even had a cellie. These were small-timers doing county bids, I was exotic fare and became instantly infamous. The abuse was mostly verbal, otherwise it was anything that could be thrown through the bars (thankfully, no excretory material involved). Some of the more demented ones held out pens, cut-outs of my picture in the paper, and requested my autograph. I thought to myself that this was only the beginning, that every day would be a fight for my life. There was no way out of here without a few good scars. Every moment was a mental preparation for the possibility of taking a life or lives in order to save my own. [Note from Susan: the “body” was Brandon’s best friend, Steve.]
The petty crooks demanded to know why I did what I did and quoted wild “occult killer” tabloid rumors, gleaned by police from me and my victim’s extensive collection of strange reading materials and personal effects. Personally, I think everyone should own a copy of Aleister Crowley’s Black Mass on tape. “Look out! He’s got a copy of Charles Manson’s ‘Lies’ on CD! ‘Requiem’ comics! Norwegian Black Metal! An English translation of ‘Faust’! (GASP!) It’s the Devil himself!!!!!!!” My legal firearms collection spawned a short-lived school shooter/right-wing separatist rumor that mercifully went unprinted. They also claimed they found a “used” sacrificial dagger which turned out to be a letter opener from an art catalogue modeled after one found in Tutankhamen’s tomb. And the award for “Most Unexpectedly Controversial Christmas Present” goes to…Mumsy! It should be noted that the blade was made from gold-painted pewter and would bend in a strong gust of wind. Seriously, I’ve seen tongue depressors more lethal.
When interest finally began to die and the real, boring story was out, other inmates began to empathize with my situation. They reassured me that jail had softened in Pennsylvania over the years, as a first-timer I would be sent to a “college campus” joint, and that max in the county was quiet, where the occupants kept to themselves. I was told to keep my head straight, my wits about me, and I should be fine. I looked over my shoulder at my cellie, who was busy pacing up and back, murmuring his name to himself and attempting to urinate, painfully it sounded, every 5 to 7 seconds. He did this nearly every hour of every day. Day in and day out. He was making it difficult. I won’t write it here due to what could be legal constraints, but I’ll never forget the guy’s name.
After three weeks of this, I was finally sent to the maximum-security wing on the roof, block 5-A (still in the county jail). They gave me a uniform (green scrubs), some spare clothes in a plastic bin (including a Bob Barker jean jacket, stylish!), showed me to an elevator, and keyed my floor. I was left alone inside. At the top the doors opened to a hallway completely devoid of sound and human presence. I was greeted instead by a wall-mounted intercom that instructed me to walk down the hall to the door on the right, labeled 5-A. Pointless, considering it was the only block on the floor. As I progressed, the voice moved from speaker to speaker, making sure I wouldn’t wander off course. Really, the hall wasn’t that long or riddled with doors, they just didn’t want me to blunder onto the fire escape or the guard booth, which was probably unlocked. I would have caught them doing what every C.O. does: not his job. The door to the block buzzed open remotely and yet another speaker informed me I live in 13 cell (which once housed escaped convict Hugo Selinski-worth googling just to see the bed sheet rope hanging 5 stories down). I scanned the tiny block to find exactly where that was when my ol’ buddy the intercom said “top of the stairs” and a door pops open automatically. It was amazing how eerie and deserted the place felt, what with the disembodied doors opening themselves. The block being locked in for count completed the illusion. This is where I began slipping into the lifestyle. Everyone there was either being extradited or looking at hefty state time, so mostly we just tried to amuse ourselves and forget the trouble ahead. If you could afford a TV, the cable was free. We’d hold boxing matches in the cell, or run in on guys we knew, stuff all the toilet paper in the bowl, and flood the place. We had games of Sorry that ended in violence, we made chi-chi’s, and we threw our weight around. When one of your roadies is facing the death penalty, you can get away with things. We lived about as well as we could.
From the tales of experience that I gathered, your first state bid now is like a test. Especially if you have no county record to speak of. They intentionally send you on a cake-walk-like Somerset or Albion. Hell, one of our joints is called Retreat. Sounds fun. They want to know if you’ll come out cocky, thinking you could do this on your head. Not me. I’ve got news: even easy jails suck unless you’re homeless, they’re still jails, and I hate the idea of giving up big chunks of my life to them. I can’t wait to leave ASAP. I get my first chance at parole in about 3 years, but I won’t max for another 9. I’m just not down with that “life on the installment plan” repeat offender thing. I’m done. After that 9 months in county I was done. I’ve got a job now, working in a PCI (PA Correctional Industries) Laundromat sorting a line of soiled clothing and linen from here to eternity. The work keeps me busy, the money keeps me self-reliant, and the smell keeps cops out of my department. I’m under suspension now because of a petty spat with the cops that landed me in the hole. Yeah, I’m a regular bad boy, refusing a cell move order. Stupid shit. No matter, I’ll be back in January.
Well I think that’s enough for now. I know I didn’t say much about myself personally, but I’ll leave questions up to y’all. Leaning about me is like joining the Freemasons, to get in you have to ask. The weirder, the better, I’ll answer just about anything. Whether or not I like puppies, how my idea of a romantic evening is a tracer-lit night on the firing line at Knob Creek’s biannual machine gun shoot-out, how to run a flamethrower rental business, or my plan to get myself sworn in as President based on a technicality (Obaza ’08: Sweeping Changes MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!!!!) It’s all good. Until next time…
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Shaun P. Attwood