Jim’s Books Now Available

Get Jailbreak! and see Jim's other books at Barnes and Noble. Also available at iTunes, Kobo, and Scribd.

Dirt Bag City!

Oklahoma’s shittiest prison, called “Big Crack,” in McAlester, was like a 3rd world back the early 1970’s. Despite all of its 2,200 inhabitants being forced to work at absurdly low wages, ($1.60/month, excluding 20% ‘savings’ for when they got out), there seemed to be an awful lot of money floating around for spending on vice. Bookies were everywhere, selling parley tickets to sports-fanatics who had no idea of the odds against winning. Everyone seemed to love the chased ball. When asked, each of these gamblers would tell me, “Oh, I’m about even, or a little ahead. Slightly less money would go to the food-thieves. I worked in the chow hall, as a cook, then as a baker. Cooks would steal the scrap meat patties and the baloney to make sandwiches which were smuggled to the cage stacks to be sold for cigarettes. I once bought a grilled cheese sandwich from a Negro who ran loose in the cat walks while we were all locked in our cages. It came, unwrapped, in a grease-spotted brown paper bag which I threw in the trash where two other captives who spat snuff and hawked phlegm. The hustler ran off to make another sandwich in the tinfoil and light bulb oven he had made. A few minutes later, he was at my cage again wanting this bag, explaining, ‘People don’t want to buy a sandwich out of my hand.” We bakers were a little more professional. We’d make too much biscuit dough, which would turn into cinnamon rolls or fruit turnovers. My preference was to make brownies, two big slabs, wrapped in clean plastic, and got me a pack of cigarettes or stamps. I’d make them and smuggle them up to the cages by the bag full. I’d give the run man a third to sell them to starving captives trapped in the tiny cages from 6pm to 6am.

Another thing that was big for alleviating the monotony and routine cruelty was dope. The prison kops could sometimes be paid to bring in weed. A good friend of mine had a kop send in a special case of paprika. Inside each of the 24 two-pound cans were two baggies of weed. He’d brag to me that he could get 70-75 toothpicks joint from each bag, and sell them for $2 each. He had a gold, one-carat diamond ring that he used for collateral. He showed me a bank statement showing $10,000. Another of his boasts was of using some of his profits to buy some of the trash speed to shoot. He used a sharpened basketball inflation needle and the bulb of an eyedropper to get the stuff in his vein. A friendly kop came by and interrupted him while he shot up. He and he kop talked for ten minutes as he hid his arm below the level of the bars, dribbling blood down on his side of the floor.

Depriving people of almost everything that are normal about being human makes many of them sick. Even sicker than people who rape their minds with dope are the prostitutes. These weak-minded and often lazy, ignorant people spread more of them too. While dopies give each other colds, cold sores, influenza and hepatitis or other curable diseases, the prostitutes and perverts spread warts, herpes, chlamydia and AIDS; diseases that have no cure, and some of which you can die from.

One of these sick perverts introduced himself to me as soon as the kops tossed me off into their slow death camp. His name was, appropriately, Dick. He and his friend, Kelly, seemed normal at first. Then it turned out that Dick was the worst type of psychopath. He described to me how he had decided to kill somebody, “Just to see what it felt like.” He tried to diminish his murder by adding, “he didn’t have any family: no one would miss him or even notice he was gone.” Someone did notice the mess that Dick left behind. They didn’t kill him for it, but only made everyone else in prison suffer him.

As to Dick being a pervert, this became clear when the Kops ran out of cages to cram people into. So they took a floor, tore out all the cages, then stuffed in four times as many sleeping racks. To trick the inmates into wanting to exist inside that cement sardine can, the kops called it an “Honor dorm.” Dick and his crew of sex maniacs were some of the first ones to move in. At night, we could see them surreptitiously adjust their sheets and blankets to make a hideout to crawl under. The nightly sodomy lasted more than six months, and then came to a thrilling conclusion during the coldest part of winter. It was freezing in that deathtrap due to an undeclared war between people who wanted to be warm and people who wanted to breathe. The cigarette smoke was thick as smog, but cracking a window caused howls of protest from the Blacks. Dick and his swap out partners had gotten away with their sexcapades for so long that they were crawling under their racks together even before the kops turned out the lights. A hobo-looking alcoholic called “Crop-ear” (A Negro had bitten it off in a fight) came over to berate me for wearing a jacket and cracking my window. He was cold, and smoking a giant, hand-rolled cigarette which mostly just smoldered in his hand. My friends cowered away from him. I took off my coat both to get ready for his attack and to offer it to him while I berated him for giving us all cancer. He hadn’t brought any friends, but he got braver as he noticed all of my friends looking away at nothing. He demanded that I shut my window. I told him to put out his cigarette. He took a menacing step forward. I reached my hand out of his sight beneath the dog pad on my rack as if I had a weapon. He stopped, but demanded I close my window again. “Close it yourself!” I sneered trying to give us both a way out. He was too scared to turn his back on me to do this; afraid I would attack with my non-existent weapon.

Impasse.

While we menaced each other, a loud smack and a grunt of pain erupted to our right. Dirt bag Dick catapulted out from under his rack, crawling on his Belly into the tile path under his rack, crawling on his belly into the tile path between the rows of lockers. He bled from his nose as he pulled up his pants to run past us, almost knocking crop-ear flat. Right behind him was Johnny Valentine, who nowhere else to run. Dick tried to fight, and everyone guessed from their fear of him that he’d be good at it. He wasn’t: Valentine punched, kicked and threw him around like a rag doll. One of the guts who hated Dick the most shouted, “A pack of Pall mall if you bust out his teeth, Valentine!” Another bellowed encouragement: “Beat his ass!”

The fight didn’t seem to last three minutes. They both ran out of gas, wheezing like asthmatic whales, Valentine on top of a thoroughly thrashed and bleeding enemy. Somebody sneaked over and shut my window while the rest of us watched the fight. The kops never came by to mass-punish everyone. It seemed that no one told the kops, this time. People calmed down as they realized how badly you could get stomped. Valentine told Dick to move out or get killed the next time. He caught “out” two hours later. The kops never even asked about his battered face. Then it was just another night in Dirt bag city.