Avoidable Tensions (by Shane)
Shane - After being denied psychiatric medication by ValueOptions, Shane turned to illegal drugs financed by burglaries. For stealing a few hundred dollars worth of goods, he was sentenced by Judge Ron Reinstein to eleven years. Shane is the author of the blog Persevering Prison Pages.
Walking through the gate, I looked around the crowded recreation yard for a place to sit. The eight picnic tables located at each corner of the yard were full. Chicanos were sat at and loitering around the two southern tables. Whites did the same to the west, and blacks to the east. At the two tables to the north, a smaller group of convicts of mixed races idly chatted while playing spades. All appeared normal on the high-medium-custody yard.
Keeping an eye on the large crowd of Chicanos, I walked over to the northern most table. I’d heard rumors that the Chicanos had beef with the blacks. A black had arrived on the yard who’d jacked Wedo, a low-level Mafioso, for four grams of heroin. The brothers wouldn’t give him up to the Chicanos, so tensions were high between the two races.
“I think there’s a meeting tonight between all of the heads of the races,” John told me as I stood next to the half-breed youngster who, like me, hadn’t clicked-up with the gangs. The shot-callers of each race on the yard would sit down and discuss their problem tonight. Probably suggested and arranged by prison staff, as they’re usually privy to such tensions and want peace and quiet.
Hours later, the heads of the Chicanos, blacks, Native Americans, and whites all met and discussed their mutual interests, and the problem. It got heated and the black leader walked out of the meeting. “Nobody touches him, or it’s on,” were his parting words.
The next morning in the chow line, I watched the guards amassing just outside the dining room. They knew something was going to happen. Instead of locking the yard down, they stupidly tried to stop the inevitable with a show of force. It failed.
After an hour of feeding uneventfully, a group of guards was escorting a mass of convicts from chow back to the housing unit. Suddenly and completely unexpectedly, the mob of prisoners exploded in violence. Chicanos instantly began punching and kicking any black nearby. Blacks fought back the best they could, but being outnumbered six to one, they were falling and fleeing within minutes.
The melee was over in ten minutes. Long before the guards could intervene. Six blacks were hospitalised, one with multiple stab wounds and head trauma. Two Chicanos refused medical care for razor cuts to their arms. One white boy was hospitalised after accidentally getting in the way of a stray punch that shattered his jaw. The black who’d caused this had rolled-up and left the yard in the middle of the night. Nobody knew this till afterwards. The guards knew, but said nothing.
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Shaun P. Attwood