Fight

“Get down! Get down!” the gaurd yelled as he hurtled across the compound. We knelt to the ground as if tying our shoes–just life as usual. Maybe I’m getting the hang of this prison thing, I thought.

The fight was about 20 yards away on a small patch of lawn just outside the Dining Hall. We watched with silent interest from crouched positions as two black guys danced in circles around one another, fists raised.

It wasn’t what I expected a prison fight to be like, although I admit the only prison experience I had prior to coming here came from HBO. In contrast to the glamorous Hollywood depictions, there were no angry spectators shouting provocations from the sidelines, no makeshift weaponry, nor was there any real bloodshed. The scene played out rather quietly with a strange, detached quality. It was like watching a horror movie with the sound muted, all thrill and fear evaporating along with the soundtrack.

I’ve only witnessed one other fight in my life, and that was back in high school when two black girls got into it beneath the awning of the bus pick up. What began as name calling escalated into slapping and hair pulling, and by the time the coaches had gotten up the courage to intervene, the ground was littered with long, braids of hair, plastic press-on nails, and wads of toilet paper that had sprung from one of the girls’ bras. I felt embarrassed for her.

Watching today’s fight was like watching any other school yard brawl, minus the uniformed guards and razor wire. The inmates here are no different than unschooled children. They may have the bodies of grown men, but many seem to never have matured beyond the insecurities, hormonal rage, and social awkwardness of their teenage selves. They are children inside destructive bodies, their growths stunted by hostile environments, absent fathers, and a lack of education.

In less than a minute after the fight began, the assailants were tackled to the ground by two officers and escorted to the SHU. The compound was closed and inmates were corralled back to the housing units.

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