When I first arrived here, the unit Case Manager warned I’d be solicited for sex. I knew this to be true myself because I had read somewhere that the people most likely to be solicited in prison are young, white, middle class males of small stature. I knew I had a bulls eye on my back the moment I stepped through the door.
Though I came prepared, I had no idea just how quickly it would happen. This is only my third day in prison.
Today for breakfast, I followed my roommate, an older Mexican, to the Dining Hall and sat with him and a small group of his buddies. Nobody spoke much English, but I didn’t mind as I enjoyed not having to make conversation.
After breakfast, a white man in my unit approached me and said he had noticed I was sitting with the Mexicans and suggested I sat with the whites instead or else run the risk of offending both whites and mexicans. Not wanting to stir trouble or attract attention, I thanked him for the tip and resolved to sit with the whites at dinner.
The Dining Hall is located on the north side of the complex next to the Laundry and Commissary. The massive room is almost entirely symmetrical with two of everything: two entrances, two serving lines, two hot bars, two salad bars, two drink fountains, and two tray returns. The dining table are arranged in the center of the room with the salad bars on either side, hot bars along the back, and tray returns at the front near the entrances.
The blacks sit at the tables to the far left and right of the room, the Mexicans sit in the middle between the two salad bars, and the whites, of which there are very few, sit confined to just four tables in the southeast corner of the room. There are also individual table reserved for the gangs, Jews, Christians, and the nine Asians on the compound. At dinner, or “supper” as it’s referred to in the South, I grabbed my tray from the hot bar and sat in an empty seat at one of the four tables designated for whites. Soon after I began eating, Duke sat down in the seat opposite of mine.
Duke is in his mid-thirties, roughly my height, with blue eyes, shaved head, goatee, and tattoos running up one arm. Aside from his thuggish appearance and slight gut, he was mildly attractive.
He smiled and asked where I came from. His voice had a lazy southern twang.
“Oh, yeah? We have some other people here from your state. What are you in for?” he asked.
I had been practicing my story just like my Case Manager had suggested: I hacked into my employer’s customer database and stole numerous credit card numbers of which I used to make online purchases thus committing credit card fraud.
“How much time did you get?” he asked.
“12 years,” I said.
He looked at me in disbelief. “12 years for credit card fraud?”
Thinking quickly, I said, “Yeah, I pled guilty to four counts, and the judge gave me three years for each count.” (I thought this was especially clever of me.)
“How much money did you steal?” he asked curiously.
“5,000 dollars,” was the first number that came to mind.
Again, he looked at me in disbelief, and I realized then that my story was starting to unravel. The problem was that I didn’t know one thing about credit card fraud and had no idea how much stolen money it took to land a person in prison for 12 years. The suspicion was written all over Duke’s face.
“You know, there are two kinds of people we don’t like here,” he said with raised eyebrows. He leaned in over his tray of food and lowered his voice. “And that’s chomos and rats.” A chomo, he explained is a child molester, and rats are people who snitch on the other inmates.
I nodded my head in agreement. He leaned back in his chair and studied my face as if it were a painting whose meaning he was trying to decipher.
As we continued eating, he dispensed some knowledge about the prison. He explained how the laundry service worked, described the different activities available in the Recreation Yard, and shared with me what the best and highest paying jobs were around the compound.
After I finished my dinner, I thanked Duke for the advice and excused myself from the table to return my tray and leave.
As I headed out of the Dining Hall to walk back to my unit, Duke caught up behind me.
“So listen,” he said. “You might not wanna sit where you sat today.” He lowered his voice. “That’s where the affiliated whites sit, if you catch my drift.” He stressed the word “affiliated.”
Basically, he was trying to tell me I had been sitting amongst a white gang.
Again, I thanked him for the advice.
“No problem,” he said staying close to my side. And then added, “You’re not like the rest of us, are you?” Assuming we were still talking about affiliations, I shook my head.
We stopped in front of my unit, and he asked, “So how many people know you’re gay?” It dawned on me that we weren’t talking about affiliations anymore. Was it too late to backtrack?
Sensing my discomfort, he smiled and said, “Hey listen, dude. That’s cook if you’re gay.” His smile was beginning to make me nervous. It was more smirk than smile. It occurred to me I was being toyed with, and he was clearly enjoying it.
He turned to face me and with arms spread, as if to show me he had nothing to hide, he said, “You know, I’ve been locked up now for 19 years, and I get pretty lonely.”
He glanced around the yard at the passing crowd and said, “In fact, if you look down right now, I think you’ll get a pretty good idea just how lonely I am. You catch my drift?”
His eyes lowered, and I followed his gaze down to his crotch where his erection was clearly visible.
“And if you ever find yourself lonely,” he continued, ” you know who to go to.”
Not knowing the proper response, I simply told him I wasn’t interested, but that I appreciated all of his advice. Then I turned and left.
Later that evening, I was sitting down at the desk in my cell when I heard a knock at the door–it was Duke again, and he was grinning at me through the door window.
Before I continue, let me explain that all movement on the compound is controlled. Every hour between 7 A.M. and 9 P.M., there is a 10-minute “move” period in which inmates are released into the yard and allowed to move freely between units and departments. When the 10 minutes expire, inmates must clear the yard, and the compound is locked down until the next hour’s move. Inmates are not allowed in units other then the one they are assigned.
But as I’m beginning to learn, rules mean very little in prison. Duke had gone through the trouble of finding out what unit and cell I was in and decided to pay a visit at the 7 P.M. move.
After knocking, he let himself in, closed the door, and took a seat beside me at the desk. As soon as he did, a voice came on over the unit’s P.A. system and announced that the 7 P.M. 10-minute move had ended.
Duke had me all to himself for the next hour.
For what it’s worth, each cell comes equipped with an emergency call button located on the wall next to the light switch. I know for a fact that the button works because I accidentally pushed it my first day here and sent a guard running to my aid.
As I saw it, I had two options: I could either hit the emergency call button or sit with Duke for the next hour and try to stay in control of the situation. I opted for the latter because I had been told by another inmate that you should try to resolve matters in-house and only use the call button in the event of an actual emergency. Otherwise, you run the risk of being labeled a snitch.
So for the next hour, Duke and I sat and chatted about life, prison, and his previous cell mate, Steve, who he referred to as Sugar.
“Yeah, Sugar was a real sweetheart,” he said staring out the window in reminiscence. He was quiet for a brief moment, perhaps in recollection of his former prison buddy’s touch.
“Yeah, Sugar was a real sweetheart,” he said again, and his eyes began to swell.
Sitting back in his chair, he began to stroke his dick through his pants. “You have really pretty teeth,” he said. “They just gave me a new cell mate three days ago, but damn, I wish they had put you there. I got one of those big corner cells, you know?”
He stroked his dick some more and commented on the amount of pre-cum in his underwear. I remained calm and decided to change the subject.
“So what days do they pick up laundry?” I asked.
He ignored the question. “Has someone checked your papers? Like I said before, we don’t need no chomos around here. We send those fuckers to the hole.”
Again, I shook my head.
“So if I look at your papers, I’m not gonna see any sex offenses on there, right?” His stare intensified.
Despite my best efforts to stay calm, my legs were trembling beneath the desk.
“Nope,” I replied trying to sound nonchalant.
“Good,” he said. “‘Cause we don’t need that shit here.”
He rubbed his dick some more and we sat there for a moment staring at one another. I glanced down and saw the outline of his cock through his khaki pants.
“Well, dude. I can’t leave without at least some lip action,” he smirked.
“No. I don’t think so,” I said holding my ground.
He sat back in his seat and sighed heavily. That’s when the P.A. system clicked on again and announced the next move. Finally, it was 8 o’clock.
Reluctantly, Duke stood and adjusted the front of his pants.
“Hell, I’m a little upset now. Here I came all this way and thought I was at least gonna get to cop a feel.”
“Sorry,” I said and managed an empathetic smile. “Not interested.”
“Well, I guess I’ll go back and clean all this pre-cum out of my drawers. Catch you later.”
He smiled once more and turned around and left.