Showing posts with label Prison. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Prison. Show all posts

October 26, 2015

Inmates Touching At NY Rikers Isl. Prison is Now Forbidden, Experts Criticize it



                                                                         
                                                                         


Xena Grandichelli, a trans woman, spent four months at Rikers Island in the men's jails. There, she was physically attacked and sexually assaulted. Staff then placed her in protective custody, which amounted to being locked in a solitary cell 23 and a half hours a day. But what broke her, she recalled, was being denied a visit with her sister.

"The only thing we have from the outside world is our family," Grandichelli said. "When they take that away, it dehumanizes and breaks you."
Grandichelli filed an appeal, challenging the denial. She won, but it was one month before she was allowed to see her sister again. Meanwhile, she became depressed. "I went in with no history of mental health [issues]," she remembered. "But I came out with major depression. I had to be on medication." She was released in January 2015 after all charges against her were dropped. Today, she still needs medication to control her depression.

Grandichelli is now an intern at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, an organization that works with trans and gender non-conforming people in New York City. On Friday, she was one of 40 people who showed up to an auditorium across the street from Bellevue Hospital to testify against the proposed rule change [PDF] being considered by the Board of Correction, which sets minimum standards and guidelines for the city’s jail system, including Rikers Island.

The proposed rule would allow the Department of Correction to deny visitors based on family relationship and/or past criminal convictions as well as drastically limit physical contact during visits. The denial can be appealed, but a decision may take up to fourteen business days.

The rule change would affect the 10,000 people held at Rikers Island each day. Approximately 85 percent are awaiting trial, as in Grandichelli's case. Although absent from Friday's hearing, Joseph Ponte, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction, has stated at previous meetings [PDF] that the rule change is necessary to help reduce violence at Rikers.
Grandichelli wasn't the only speaker who had spent time at Rikers. Barry Campbell is now the assistant to the CEO of the Fortune Society, which works with people returning to New York City from jails and prisons.


                                                                        



"Ninety percent of people who come out of Rikers are angry," he said. Recalling his own time on the island, he told Gothamist, "It's like a pressure valve. I had a lot of pent-up anger. You're always on alert, always in protective mode. But on a visit, I can be human. I can touch, feel, show emotions."
He also remembered that men who were not allowed physical contact during visits left the visiting room even angrier. That anger—and the behaviors from prison—accompany the person upon their return to their community. "If the new rule goes through, people will be coming home even angrier."
In December, when the Board of Correction held a public hearing about a proposed rule that would both create the Enhanced Supervision Housing Unit and limit time spent in segregation, the Department of Correction filled half the auditorium with nearly 60 uniformed correctional officers, DOC commissioner Joseph Ponte and Correction Officers' Benevolent Association president Norman Seabrook. All were absent from Friday’s hearing.

At Friday’s meeting, board member Bobby Cohen noted that he was disappointed by Commissioner Ponte’s absence and was quickly rebuked by the board’s chair, Stan Brezenoff, who called his comment "gratuitous."
The DOC directed Gothamist to the City Hall press office for comment; the Mayor's Office has not yet responded. COBA has yet to provide us with a comment.

Candie Hailey-Means tried to kill herself numerous times during her four years at Rikers. Each time, officers wrote her a disciplinary ticket; for each ticket, she spent 30 days in segregation. "I got over 100 tickets because I cut myself over 100 times," she recalled. Hailey-Means spent over three years in isolation.

Her sister's weekly visits were her only contact with the outside world. "I got to hug somebody. I knew somebody cared," she said. Otherwise, she recalled, "You're in a box by yourself. You have no contact with the outside world." Had it not been for those visits, she said, "I would have tried to kill myself even more." Hailey-Means was acquitted of all criminal charges and released from Rikers on May 1, 2015.

But, she added during her testimony, limiting contact during visits would not stem the flow of contraband onto the island. She recalled an officer drinking on the job—and offering her a drink as well. “That officer is still employed at Rikers."

Johnny Perez, who spent a year and a half at Rikers Island, also challenged the Department's argument that limiting contact and restricting visitors would decrease the flow of contraband at Rikers. “I can't tell you how many times I bought drugs from COs who threatened to beat me up if I didn't pay them on time," he said.

In contrast, visits with his mother reminded him that, despite his incarceration, he was still a son to his mother and a father to his daughter. "The only thing that kept me sane was the connection with my family. Being able to hold your daughter or kiss your mother makes a difference.”

Jennifer J. Parish, the director of criminal justice advocacy at the Urban Justice Center and a member of the Jails Action Coalition, noted that the Department has instituted searches of jail staff, resulting in arrests and even prison sentences of staff for smuggling contraband. Instead of acting on the proposed rule change, Parish urged the Board of Correction to allow these searches of staff members to continue and see if the rates of drugs, weapons and other contraband decrease during the next six months.

Mayor de Blasio speaking at Rikers next to DOC Commissioner Joseph Ponte (Mayor's Office)
The new rule also changes the limitations on punitive segregation, also known as solitary confinement, passed by the Board in January. Under these limitations, if a person has spent 30 days in punitive segregation, he or she must be released from segregation for 7 days before being returned to segregation. Unless he is deemed “persistently violent," no person can be held in punitive segregation longer than 60 days in a six-month period.

The proposed rule change allows the Department of Correction to waive the seven-day break and, if staff determine that the person may endanger others, keep that person in segregation past the 60 day limit.

India Rodriguez remembers her time in solitary confinement. Because she is a trans woman, Rodriguez recalled that she was pressured into the protective custody unit. Like Grandichelli, she soon learned that protective custody meant nearly 24-hour confinement. It also made her vulnerable to sexual violence from staff.

"Today I am free, but I struggle daily with insurmountable emotional traumas," she testified through tears before the Board. "I stand before you today to ask you to abolish solitary confinement. This is a civilized society and it must end."
Few family members made it to the hearing. Some sent statements, which were read by advocates. But Chanel, whose sister has been at Rikers since Labor Day, rushed into the auditorium after work to talk about the importance of visiting—and being able to touch.

Chanel, who asked that her last name not be used or her sister be identified for fear of staff retaliation, visits once a month. Their mother visits once a week, waiting up to three hours for a one-hour visit. "Being able to touch gets me through the week," their mother said. "It's important for everyone involved to be able to touch. Everyone should be able to touch their family member.”

The Board of Correction will vote on the proposed rule change on Tuesday, November 10th.

UPDATE: Monica Klein, a spokesperson for the Mayor's Office, emailed us this statement:
Each of DOC's rule changes is aimed at reducing violence associated with contraband coming into the jails and providing the necessary flexibility to manage a small population of very violent offenders. The goals of the visitation policy is to provide a common-sense approach that reduces drugs, weapons and other contraband from entering the jails while respecting our inmates’ legitimate needs to maintain ties with family members and the community. The department remains at the forefront of national jail reform efforts, thanks to Commissioner Ponte’s plan to remove all inmates age 21 and under from punitive segregation.

April 23, 2015

Crisis of Violence in Georgia Prisons






A shocking photo of inmates taken at a Georgia correctional facility could intensify a halting effort in the United States to alleviate poor prison conditions that can lead to unchecked barbarism likened to an American Abu Ghraib.
The picture from Burruss Correctional Training Center in Forsyth, Georgia, shows three young and shirtless African American male prisoners. One of them is pointing at the camera as though holding a gun, another is holding a makeshift leash, and the third, an 18-year-old, is on his knees, his left eye swollen shut from a beating and the leash lashed around his neck.
The image is shocking on several levels, including its similarity to the Abu Ghraib torture pictures, that a contraband cell phone was used to capture the degradation, and that prison officials didn’t witness the mass beating and subsequent humiliation of a young man serving an eight-year sentence for aggravated assault after first being arrested for armed robbery as a 14-year-old.


Prison-system critics say the image offers poignant insight into a broader problem of prisoner-on-prisoner violence in many U.S. correctional facilities, not just in Georgia, and the extent to which those experiences influence “young men who will be back among us one day,” as Sarah Geraghty, an Atlanta human rights lawyer, put it.
Wide-ranging reaction to the degrading photo also illustrates America’s evolving views about the confluence of punishment and humanity, and the extent to which society tolerates prison violence as a form of deterrence.
“I think this picture can go a long way toward galvanizing a discussion about what prisons are for—particularly, does anybody believe that these men are deterred by prison?” said Jonathan Simon, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
“You have to ask yourself: If the basic story that we tell ourselves is that it’s all about laws and sending people to prison because they violated laws and harmed other people, how can we possibly justify sending them to a place where that is happening to them?” Simon said. “If that’s our idea of punishment, then we have conceded the point that there’s a difference between crime and law.” 

In Georgia, reaction among prison officials to the picture was immediate and strong. The beaten inmate was moved into protective custody, and the state Department of Corrections moved to find and punish the torturers. More broadly, new policies and detection technology have led to mass confiscation of cell phones, which have been tied to violent extortion schemes involving inmates and their family on the outside.
“First and foremost, the Department does not tolerate contraband and takes very seriously its mission of protecting the public and running safe and secure facilities,” spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The problem plaguing the corrections system nationwide is one that the [Georgia DOC] is aware of and continuously works to utilize extensive resources to combat this issue.”
Yet critics say the Abu Ghraib–like photo is emblematic of the kind of violence that regularly occurs in Georgia’s prisons. In a 2014 report called The Crisis of Violence in Georgia’s Prisons, the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta documented dozens of similar ordeals and argued that Georgia has seen an increase in the “number of really brutal incidents.”
Those include a prisoner who was airlifted to a burn center after fellow inmates poured bleach in his eyes and boiling water on his privates. In another case, a prisoner had three fingers severed by an inmate wielding a 19-inch prison-made machete. In another, a prisoner was tied to his bed and beaten, remaining a hostage until guards found him—two days later.
Root causes of such violence include failure of basic security, inadequate supervision, and accessibility to lethal weapons and cell phones, the report concluded.  
But while Georgia’s problems with violent prisons are significant, it’s far from the only state where life inside sometimes devolves into outright blood-sport degradation.
Indeed, it was California that became the poster child for “horrendous” prison conditions, in the words of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
In a 2011 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that California prisons overcrowded by long-term incarceration policies violated the Eighth Amendment’s guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment. In 2006, there was one preventable inmate death a week inside California’s sprawling prison complex. The opinion referenced several photos of prison conditions, including a picture of a suicidal prisoner who was “held in...a cage for nearly 24 hours, standing in a pool of his own urine, unresponsive and nearly catatonic.”
Aside from mandates to slim down California’s prison population, the ruling’s most lasting contribution came from Justice Anthony Kennedy. “Prisoners retain the essence of human dignity inherent in all persons,” he wrote.
Kennedy’s stance represented a rejection of what University of Pennsylvania law student Sara Mayeux, in an article for Reason.com, called “a deeper cultural pathology: the tendency to imagine prisoners as an undifferentiated mass of uncontrollable criminality, not as human beings with organs that fail and extremities that break.”
Still, problems remain deep and endemic in states like Georgia. It’s a system, the human rights report argues, “in which prison officials have lost control.”
Aware of such problems, political leaders in Georgia and other Southern states have begun to recognize that overreliance on incarceration and mass imprisonment has itself become a problem that affects society.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said in 2011 that his get-tough-on-crime views had been tempered over time. “There is an urgent need to address the astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential,” Gingrich pointed out. “The criminal-justice system is broken, and conservatives must lead the way in fixing it.”
Fighting off tears, Georgia’s Republican Gov. Nathan Deal in 2012 signed a law to help keep nonviolent offenders out of prison.
Patrik Jonsson is The Christian Science Monitor's Atlanta correspondent, covering the South. He has written for newspapers in New Hampshire, and The Boston Globe
This story was produced by The Christian Science Monitor.

March 19, 2015

No Rape Instead Consensual Sex on England and Wales Prisons






‘Sexual activity is widespread in prisons and must be seen as an urgent health issue,’ said Frances Crook of the Howard League. 
 ‘Sexual activity is widespread in prisons and must be seen as an urgent health issue,’ said Frances Crook of the Howard League. Photograph: Alamy

Rape is extremely rare in prisons in England and Wales, whereas consensual gay sex, pornography and masturbation is widespread and accepted, according to the findings of the first systematic review of sex between inmates.
The two-year commission on sex in prison, set up by the Howard League for Penal Reform, warns of an “urgent health issue” and calls for “coherent and consistently applied policies which recognise and respond to the reality of consensual and coercive sex in prison”.
The commission was blocked by the Ministry of Justice from interviewing current inmates, so instead based its research on in-depth interviews by a criminologist, Dr Alisa Stevens, with 26 former prisoners who spoke for the first time about their experiences.
Gay and bisexual ex-prisoners reported that while they were able to be open about their sexuality on the wing, they were discreet about their sexual activities and relationships.
They usually had sex in the cell of one of the participants or in the showers during periods of association. Some men who shared cells had sex at night despite official prison policy that men who are discovered to be in a sexual relationship should be separated and not allowed to share a cell.


One heterosexual man said that he had sex with gay or bisexual prisoners “out of necessity” and had resumed exclusive heterosexual relationships since leaving prison: “I’m completely straight. What happened then was just about having my sexual needs met, in a particular time and place where I couldn’t get [heterosexual] sex.”
The researchers found that the availability of condoms and dental dams to minimise the risk of exposure to sexually transmitted infections varied widely from prison to prison. Some of those interviewed had been refused condoms while others could get them from healthcare but in circumstances that didn’t allow for any privacy.
The two women ex-prisoners who were interviewed said they had not had personal experience of sex in prison but were aware that “close friendships” were commonplace: “I couldn’t believe how much kissing and cuddling was going on,” said one. “It was a big, big shock, a big culture shock. Someone like me, never been in prison before. I didn’t know where to look half the time!”



The former prisoners insisted that coerced sex was rare behind bars. Three male interviewees disclosed that they had been raped by other prisoners, and three others had been threatened with rape while they were in prison.
One had been raped by five assailants in a cell but was dissuaded from making a formal complaint by a prison officer. He was advised that “grassing” on other prisoners at such an early stage in his long sentence would “mark his cards” for the rest of his time inside.
The researchers also found a tacit acceptance by prison staff of both pornography and masturbation. One interviewee recalled how, feeling “overwhelmed and nervous” on his first night, he asked for a bible. He was told apologetically by an officer that they had no bibles but he could offer him some pornographic magazines to “help you get to sleep”.
Stevens said: “This research has illustrated the urgent need for coherent and consistently applied policies which recognise and respond to the reality of consensual and coercive sex in prison.”
Frances Crook, the director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This final report of the commission shows that sexual activity is widespread in prisons and must be seen as an urgent health issue. The commission has conducted the first systematic review of sex in prison and it is clear important lessons must be learned, and fast.”
A HM Prison Service spokesperson said: “We do not condone sex in prisons or believe that prisoners in a relationship should share a cell. 
“We take the report of any sexual assault incredibly seriously and ensure that victims are supported and protected. Every incident is fully investigated and careful analysis is currently taking place to help understand the reasons behind sexual assaults in prisons.”
The spokesperson said the rise in referring cases to the police showed commitment of HMPS to tackling the issue: “We have introduced a new protocol with the police and crown prosecution service to introduce a new approach to further aid the investigation of crime in prison.”

October 14, 2014

A ‘prick’, that is all it takes but they wont see it

This story was published in 2011 (the reason you not reading it now) but the picture and the facts, problems and non solutions are still current today on 2014. I figure I throw the bottle in the water again…adamfoxie

John Greysons Poster Virus for AIDS Action Now 

John Greyson’s Egyptian Imprisonment

                                                                  
John Greyson didn’t waste any time turning his detention into a piece of art. Created using a series of drawings made after he was arrested in Egypt, his short film Prison Arabic in 50 Days was shot less than 24 hours after he landed in Canada. Both a thank-you to everyone who’d fought for his release and an attempt to communicate something about the experience, the piece was created in his garden with fellow prisoner Tarek Loubani and Greyson’s sister Cecilia.

Using the backs of cigarette packages (mostly Marlboros, occasionally Cleopatras), the cards feature words in Arabic and English relevant to their imprisonment. Guard, door, window, breakfast, shower; each term is accompanied by an image that hints at, but doesn’t tell, the whole story.xtraonline

March 3, 2014

50 Years Latter The Birdman of Alcatraz Speaks

                                                                        



More than 50 years after his death, the first part of a book written by Robert Stroud, better known as the Birdman of Alcatraz, about the U.S. prison system has finally been published.
Stroud, gained infamy for his painstaking study of birds while in federal prison, but he also wrote a manuscript of more than 2,000 pages about the brutality, sex, bribery and what he saw as the monumental failure of prisons to rehabilitate inmates.
He died in 1963 while engaged in a lawsuit with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, which didn’t want the book about the then 150-year history of the U.S. prison system published. 
Robert Stroud, gained infamy for his painstaking study of birds while in federal prison, but he also wrote a four-part book about prison which has finally been released The book written by Robert Stroud, known as the Birdman Of Alcatraz, laid unpublished after his death in 1963, until now 
More than 50 years after his death, the first part of a book written by Robert Stroud, better known as the Birdman of Alcatraz, about the U.S. prison system has finally been published
The manuscripts went into storage at the house of Stroud's lawyer, Dudley Martin, in the mid-1980s after a 20-year legal battle 
The manuscripts went into storage at the house of Stroud's lawyer, Dudley Martin, in the mid-1980s after a 20-year legal battle
It took until the mid-1980s for his lawyer to gain legal possession of Stroud’s manuscript but then publishers concerned about libel balked at a book that named brutal guards and supposedly on-the-take wardens.
‘To sadistic-minded persons, helplessness is always an invitation to cruelty,’ Stroud wrote in the brown, faded and stained manuscript that languished in a basement long after his death in 1963. 

The manuscript – more than 2,000 pages - was stored at the Springfield, Missouri home of Stroud's former lawyer Dudley Martin.
Now that the people named in the book have died and the statute of limitations on libel has expired, his manuscript has been converted into a four-part book Looking Outward: A History Of The U.S. Prison System From Colonial Times To The Formation Of The Bureau Prisons.
Lawyer Dudley Martin looks at handwritten manuscripts written by Robert Stroud at his home in Springfield, Missouri 
Lawyer Dudley Martin looks at handwritten manuscripts written by Robert Stroud at his home in Springfield, Missouri
Burt Lancaster starred as Robert Stroud in the 1962 movie Birdman of Alcatraz 
Burt Lancaster starred as Robert Stroud in the 1962 movie Birdman of Alcatraz
‘If there is anybody who could write about federal prisons, it was him,’ said J.E. Cornwell of Springfield, the book's publisher.
Part I, Looking Outward, A Voice From The Grave, has recently been published in E-book form. 
In it, Stroud reveals that he was gay, though he had married a woman while in prison who was his partner in a bird-related business on the outside.
Stroud entered federal prison in 1909 at age 19 after being convicted of manslaughter for killing with his bare hands a man in Alaska who allegedly beat up a prostitute. He spent the next 54 years in four different federal facilities.
In 1916, Stroud knifed a guard to death at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, over a dispute about visiting privileges for Stroud's mother. He served the next 43 years in solitary confinement.
Stroud began studying birds at Leavenworth and wrote two heralded scientific books on bird diseases, which led to the 1962 movie about his life called Birdman Of Alcatraz starring Burt Lancaster.
Stroud in the 1920s Stroud in the 1930s 
Stroud entered federal prison in 1909 at age 19 and died in 1963, aged 73. The photo on the left was taken in the 1920s and then one on the right during the 1930s
‘Here is a guy with a third-grade education who somehow educated himself to write books on birds that were followed around the world,’ said his lawyer, Dudley Martin, 80. ‘My father raised gamecocks and he used Stroud's book when they got sick.’
After his transfer to Alcatraz in 1942, Stroud turned his attention to researching the history of federal prisons and interviewing inmates and guards.
‘Nobody else had written this stuff and the federal prison system did not want it out,’ Martin said.
Stroud spent years trying to get his book published, finally suing the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in 1962 to allow publication.
But Stroud died in 1963 before the lawsuit was resolved. And it took 21 years for Martin, the administrator of Stroud's will, to get legal possession of the manuscripts from probate.
In 1942, Stroud was transferred to Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, and became inmate #594     

 
Martin's secretary put Stroud's hand-written notebook manuscripts into type, more than 2,000 pages single-spaced. Martin sent the book to three New York publishers, all of whom turned it down, concerned about libel suits.
The manuscripts went into storage at Martin's house in the mid-1980s. Some 30 years later, the people named in the book have died and the statute of limitations on libel has expired, Martin said.

More of his writings are to come, with the volumes tracing the rise and degeneration of the prison reform movement and how sex in prison contributed to character destruction.
Stroud spent the last four years of his life at the federal medical center prison in Springfield. Martin took over as his lawyer after Stroud’s transfer from Alcatraz and met him only once, in court.

‘He was a great big, tall man,’ Martin said. ‘I had to look up at him.’
Martin said Stroud would be pleased to know the public is finally able to read his account of the prison system.
‘He'd be honored,’ Martin said. ‘He would feel appreciated for what he had done.’

story and pictures By DAILY MAIL REPORTER and REUTERS REPORTER 

June 16, 2013

Michael Lucas and The Episode of Prison Rape


Pictured: Milan Gamiani
Imagine that you are a trapped in a world of men who take pleasure in harming and demeaning you. Every day, they call you a lowlife and a faggot. You're kicked and punched until you bleed. You are brutally raped, by four different men. There is nowhere for you to go and nowhere you can turn for help. When you report it to the authorities, they tell you to keep quiet.
Milan Gamiani doesn’t have to imagine any of that. He lived it in 2010, he says, at a correctional center in Manhattan, where he was sent for refusing to testify against a boyfriend who was charged with financial crimes. “I was beaten many times,” he told me. “I was mocked, abused, robbed of the few possessions I had, made to do things I never wanted to.”
Now, more than two years after his release, he relives his trauma continually, in nightmares and day terrors that have nearly broken him. “I'm not over what I went through,” he says. “My mind can't handle it. I feel like disappearing.”
Milan’s experience is very far from an isolated case. Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice published a sickening report on widespread sexual violence in American prisons. And as the New York Times wrote, the highest rates of victimization were found among “inmates who were gay or lesbian, inmates who had been raped or sexually abused before incarceration, and inmates who suffered from mental illness.” The most vulnerable convicts are at greatest risk.
This is bullying on a grotesque scale, and it is a national disgrace. Yet when prison rape is discussed at all in America, it is almost always as a punch line. On sitcoms and late-night comedy shows, the idea of a man going to jail is usually followed by a one-liner about becoming his cell mate’s “girlfriend,” or dropping the soap in the shower. The humor in these jokes is not just dehumanizing but homophobic. Would anyone make a similar joke about a woman getting raped?
Abuse of adult men is something we have been taught to laugh at, not take seriously. No wonder so many victims stay silent about it. Milan Gamiani is a brave exception.
I met Milan years ago when he was working in the adult film industry. We even made a few movies together. Back then, I knew him to be friendly, good-humored and one of the most comfortably sexy performers I had ever worked with. When I met with him last month in Florida, where he lives now, it was hard to recognize him as the same person. He was nervous, fearful and deeply sad. A cocktail of medications helps him keep his terrors in check, but only barely. He struggled unsuccessfully to hold back tears while recounting his story to me; we had to end the interview early because it was too painful for him to continue.
Milan’s ordeal in prison began, he says, on the day he was admitted. It started with the guards. “They want to let you know who’s in charge, and they make that very clear,” he recalls. “They diminish you and insult you. It’s like a power trip for them. They seemed to get off on calling you a piece of trash.” (“What’s a little white boy like you doing in a big boy’s playground?” he remembers one of them taunting.)
Once Milan had been assigned a bed, he was taken to the cellblock. “They literally parade you like you are fresh meat, and all the prisoners start talking amongst themselves about who wants to have you; who wants to take you in their cell,” he says. “It was so degrading to be sitting there in a corner while all of that was taking place.”
His first cellmate, he soon discovered, was stealing and selling Milan’s few belongings. When Milan confronted him, the cellmate beat him up. The next day, Milan tried to report the attack to the prison’s social worker, who treated him coldly. “It was like he was judging you no matter what. You felt like at any time he could just smack you,” Milan says. The social worker’s advice to Milan was to forget about the incident: “He said it’s best if you don’t get into fights because it will go against you when it’s time to see the judge.”
Milan’s situation got more dangerous in the weeks to come. Everywhere he went, he was targeted for abuse. The shower room was the most dangerous, because it afforded inmates a limited privacy. “Once you got in the shower, sometimes people would go behind the curtain and just beat the shit out of you, because it was the only place where nobody could see.”
The abuse was often sexual. “They would beat you up so you would do whatever it was that they wanted—oral sex, or sometimes they would just fuck you until they came,” he recalls. Four different men, he says, raped him during his stay, without condoms or lubrication. Resisting them was impossible. “They were bigger than me, and they would restrain you because they knew about street fighting. I can fight but I don’t have those techniques. I don’t know how to block somebody like that.” Nor could he call for help: “If you screamed they would beat you a lot harder.”
In despair, Milan tried to hang himself in his cell. He failed, and the attacks continued. The men responsible raped at least three other inmates that Milan knew. Every day, he and the others would have to share breakfast, lunch and dinner with the men who abused them. To report what was happening was to risk even worse retribution from the attackers. And when he did reach out to prison supervisors, he says, he was ignored.
“I told one doctor [about the rape],” Milan recalls. “She immediately left the room, and I thought she was going to do something about it. Then another doctor came, and a social worker. But nothing ever came of it.” Milan says he also approached the guards three times about what was happening to him. Their response? “‘Stop making trouble.’ I can hear it now,” Milan says. Their indifference was colored with contempt: “‘Come on, you guys like playing with each other and now you’re going to call it rape?’”
Nothing in Milan’s life had prepared him for what he endured. “If you are somebody like me who has never been to prison before, who has never committed a crime in his life, these are people who will rip you apart without thinking twice,” he says. “The brutality doesn't come just from the prisoners. It also comes from the employees of the prison: from the guards, from the marshals, whom you cannot even look in the eye without feeling threatened or getting into some sort of trouble. There is no one there to extend advice or defend you. Even the doctors will not help.”
Milan survived his stay in prison, and is battling now to survive the aftermath. He is speaking up, and so should we. Visit the website of Just Detention International to learn more about the ongoing human-rights crisis in our prisons.
Stop laughing at jokes about rape.
Demand that your elected officials get involved. Prisoner rights are not a popular issue for politicians, who don’t want to look “soft on crime.” But prison assault and rape are crimes, and should be treated seriously as such. People who have been convicted should serve out their sentences according to the law. But those sentences do not include being physically and sexually tortured by other inmates while the law looks the other way.
“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons,” wrote Fyodor Dostoevsky in his 1862 novel, The House of the Dead.In our prisons, victims of horrific abuse are beaten into silence while imprisoned, then shamed into it when they leave. How should we be judged?
MICHAEL LUCAS is the creator of Lucas Entertainment, one of the largest studios producing all-male erotica. He lives in New York City. 

March 23, 2013

Life Inside at Attica For a Gay Man


Dean A. Faiello
glreview.com/

The following article arrived as an unsolicited manuscript from the  Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York, where the author is incarcerated. Because I was unable to interact with him in preparing the piece for publication, I decided to run it almost verbatim, making only a few minor corrections. However, the piece was quite long and included a few digressions that I thought detracted from the narrative, so I have taken the liberty of cutting these passages (totaling some 1200 words). These three cuts are marked by an ellipsis in brackets.
— The Editor

I   SAT IN THE BACK of a dingy prison classroom listening to a community college professor conjugate Spanish verbs. My tuition in the pilot college program had been generously paid by Doris Buffet, Warren’s sister. Why she had such compassion for inmates in a prison infamous for violence, I had no idea. Most of society despises us. At times, I’m inclined to agree.

    In Spanish, I joked with the guy next to me. A Native American, his Spanish was better than that of most of the guys in the class. “Juan es guapo. Juan es maricón. Le encata chorizo.” Contrary to Hollywood’s depiction, rabid homophobia reigns in prison. Homosexual behavior is rare. Partly to fit in, and partly out of self-loathing despite being a gay man, I conform.

    The two-hour Spanish class usually ended at 8:45 pm. It was 9:15. The officers, most of whom deeply resent inmates getting an education, rarely let a class run late. Even the professor, who had spent six years in a military Special Ops unit stationed in Iraq, was anxious. I was certain a fight had broken out somewhere. Prison security is the only thing that would delay the end of night school.

    Finally, at 9:30 pm, a bell whose clang reminded me of high school, sounded. Time for the “go-back.” Three classrooms emptied into the corridor, followed by the Spanish professor who made a beeline for the exit. About forty men began screaming and gesticulating—normal conversation in prison. Most inmates believe the volume of one’s voice is directly proportional to one’s IQ. I find the inverse to be true.

    A guy standing next to me held open a jailhouse magazine—a mail order catalogue hawking items only seen in prisons: plastic hotpots, tape players, and typewriters in clear plastic housings, and an abundance of cheap clothing in numerous tacky shades of green. He shouted questions at me while pointing to a photo in the catalogue of a beige polyester blanket that I wouldn’t let my dog sleep on. Voices of bellowing men caromed off the green tile walls and terrazzo floor. He wanted to know if the prison package room would let the blanket in.

    I tried to explain to him that it had to have a label with “fire-retardant” printed in big letters. It is typical of prison-mentality rules. All blankets currently manufactured are fire-retardant. But the screaming laughter and shouts around us prevented any effective communication. He kept saying, “So, I can get it, right? I can get it?” Finally, bitter and beaten by the raucous din, I relented. “Yeah, yeah. You can get it. No problem.” Full of resentment toward the throng of shouting inmates that filled the corridor, I headed back to my prison block, leaving behind the man with the catalogue who continued to page through it like it was the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

    I was disappointed at my lack of empathy, but I was worried and nervous. The previous night a fight had broken out in the recreation yard outside my window. An inmate was stomped and stabbed by gang members. Officers fired tear gas to break it up. I had an uneasy feeling that gang revenge had taken place while the Spanish professor was explaining the use of the vosotros verb form in our college class. Coméis. Dormáis. Peleáis.

    As we walked silently in pairs through the corridors, like Franciscan monks back to our cells, I sensed tension. Sergeants, “white-shirts” as we call them, were shouting into telephone receivers. Normally at that hour of the night, white-shirts are in their offices, leaning back in comfy ergonomic chairs with boots propped up on their desks, watching TV and eating pizza. As we filed past officers in blue uniforms on our way back to the galleries, the officers glared at us without the usual ridicule and taunting.

     In the stairway, we joked a little to relieve our anxiety. “Hasta la vista, cabrón.” “Besa mi culo, puto.” The gallery that houses my cell looks out at a one-acre prison yard that provides recreation for A-block, affectionately known as “Afghanistan.” It is one of the four yards comprising a five-acre quad, divided by raised concrete catwalks, which serve as recreation for the entire prison. Three-story structures, 500 feet long and clad in red brick, form a massive enclosure housing over 2,000 men.

    As I neared my cell, through the barred gallery windows that rise from floor to ceiling, I could see the A-block yard: deserted, except for the perimeter where a couple hundred prisoners stood shoulder to shoulder, facing the brick walls. Their hands were raised high over their heads, pressed flat against the walls. Sergeants scurried across the catwalks, intensely focused on the yard below them. Over the loudspeakers, I heard a scratchy voice: “Stop fighting. This is your last warning.” An eerie silence hung in the air, followed by two flat pops of a gun. Canisters of teargas had been fired into the yard. Guys on my gallery, already locked in their cells, shouted at me as I walked by. “Shut the windows, shut the windows!” As I complied, my cell gate finally opened electrically with a grinding whirr. I stepped in and it slammed shut.

    I sat at my bench, a narrow metal shelf, clutching my Spanish books to my stomach. I felt sick, scared. Tear gas is rarely used for fights in the yard. When it is, there are repercussions for the whole jail. Normally a loud raucous corridor of men shouting, cooking meals, and slamming dominoes, the gallery waited in silence as events in the yard unfolded. Outside my window, the A-block handball court had been abandoned, a single blue rubber ball its only occupant. Muffled shouts of officers on the catwalks penetrated the wire-glass windows. “Slide down the wall. Get on the ground, face down.”

    I thought of Danny, who sits next to me in Spanish class. He has very little command of Spanish grammar. In hushed tones, I often help him as best as I can—translating, correcting his spelling, letting him peek at my notes and exam answers. He has such beautiful hands—large, sinewy, chiseled like Michelangelo’s David. He combs his hair forward, like an ancient Roman. His large, dark-lidded eyes plead for my help when the class conjugates verbs. An aquiline nose and full pouty lips anchor his face. I want to lie in bed with him, just lie there, one arm draped across his bare chest, and drift off to sleep, hypnotized by his rhythmic breathing.

IN THE MORNING, when I woke, the prison seemed normal—the usual sounds and banter of the 7:00 AM shift change. Once the morning count cleared, the gates opened. I grabbed a pint of milk from the fridge on the gallery, plugged in my plastic hot pot, and made a huge mug of instant coffee spiked with cocoa to kill the bitterness. I never went to the mess hall for breakfast. Prison food—mushy, bland, and cold—depressed me. Men braver than I headed to the dayroom and waited for the chow bell.

    Waiting for the hot pot to heat up, I looked out at the A-block yard, strewn with detritus from the previous night’s melee. Lifeless sweatshirts littered the grass. Balled-up latex gloves, used to strip-search inmates, dotted the pavement. A clear plastic garbage bag, propelled by the wind, danced in circles around the blue handball on the empty court.

    An unintelligible message blared on the squawk box near the dayroom. The company officer shouted down the gallery. “Lock in. Everybody. Lock in now.” Guys who had been waiting for chow quickly abandoned the dayroom. “Ah, shit. Here we go. They musta killed that nigga last night, ya heard.”

    I dread the lockdowns. The uncertainty, the helplessness, are torture. One has no idea when they will end, when the somewhat normal routine will return, freeing us from purgatory. However, lockdowns are also sometimes a calming respite from the shouting and chaos that swirl outside my cell. Every night, as it approaches 10:00 PM, the cacophonous din builds to a crescendo until the slamming gates resound like the clash of cymbals. The hollering slowly abates, transformed to a mindless chatter, until ultimately forming a melodic Chopin nocturne as men become entranced by ancient black and white TV’s, drifting off into fitful sleep.

    “Hey yo, check out TMZ. That bitch is thick, son, ya heard.”
    “Put on ‘Breaking Bad.’ They’s killin’ that nigga. Word is my motha, son.”
    “Hey yo, this shit is crazy, son. Na mean?”

    Donning headphones, I sometimes watch CNN to keep abreast of the news. The Arab Spring, a momentous turn in history, transfixed me. I was riveted by Anderson Cooper’s reporting, mesmerized by his handsome features. I tacitly cheered the Libyan rebels as Cooper fielded their poignant reports, transmitted by cell phones. Anderson had an aura enhanced by the charmed life he has led—whisked into Studio 54 at eleven years old with his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, dancing with Michael Jackson as Andy Warhol and Bianca Jagger looked on, insouciant, yet covertly amused.

    Many nights, as an escape from the prison rancor and hostility that fester like an infection, I choose a good read—20th-century literature, anthologies of powerful essays, collections of creative nonfiction. I aspire to some day see one of my essays in print. Nurturing a prison dream takes stamina, but I thrive on the challenge. It gives me focus in a feckless environment.

    To take my mind off the lockdown and forget the ugly drama of the previous night’s fight, I picked up Cien Años de Soledad, Gabriel García Márquez’s masterful, career-defining novel. Reading in Spanish helps me to block out the banal babble that intensifies whenever bored men are locked in their cells.

    “Hey yo, you think these niggas gonna burn us for commissary? I ain’t got nothin’ but crackhead soups in ma house, na mean?”
    “Hey yo, young god, send me a rolly, son. This shit is stressin’ me out. Ya  heard?”
    “Nigga, fall back and smack ya head. You done smoke up all my shit.”
    “Hey yo, kiss ma black ass, nigga.”

    Visually, I find that phrase so erotic. Black men have beautiful asses. Their muscular butt cheeks sit high on long, powerful legs. At times, walking in formation through the prison’s brick corridors, I can’t help but lustfully stare at the undulating butt in front of me. Do black prisoners have any idea how they arouse gay men by strutting with their pants pulled halfway down their asses like rappers, their shirts draped in the deep cracks of their butts? How can men be so homophobic, yet walk around like butt billboards?

    I returned to Márquez’s village of Macondo. Its sassy matriarchs, sage and potent, animate the pages. I love Pilar’s irreverent humor. “Santa madre de Dios. Estoy ocupada destripando conejos para tu guiso. Por el amor de Dios, suélteme.” I skipped to the scene detailing José Arcadio’s huge cock. I debated what Márquez, a Nobel laureate, was thinking when he conjured that passage. Was it autobiographical, or wishful fancy? Do straight men, just like most gays, have a big dick fantasy—a barely subconscious desire for a powerful weapon of sexual dominance? I admire Márquez’s courage in broaching a subject considered taboo by most heterosexual men.

    In prison, an inane code governs all references to a man’s body parts. Innocuous statements such as “Take it out” or “Stick it in,” when talking about the microwave, for example, have to be immediately followed by the requisite statement, “No homo.” Even common mess hall words like “meat,” “sausage,” or “buns” require an emphatic “no homo.” I refuse to participate in the insanity. Instead, I retort with statements such as, “You’re not seriously afraid of homosexuals, are you? Come on, they can’t hurt you.” I noticed most white guys are more comfortable joking about their sexuality. Black men never cross that line. Their culture precludes any inference of homosexuality, in jest or otherwise. An extreme machismo, most likely instilled growing up in the ’hood, forbids any gay reference. Black men wear their manhood like breastplates.

    Yet, I have no right to criticize another man’s armor. I get nervous simply awaiting a call-out to the prison library. I’m apprehensive of having to negotiate my way past the four different officers that sit between my cell and the library. When I used to “lock” in another block and tried to go to the library, the officers who ran the call-outs would tell me, “Library? You ain’t got no call-out for the library.” Then they would slam the metal lobby door. As I stood there, defeated, I could hear them snickering as their bootsteps faded. “Library, what’s he a fuckin’ queer?” [...]

    I rarely get involved in physical confrontations because I’m afraid to fight. I don’t know how. I nearly always get my ass kicked. My prison fight record is 0 for 3. But the issue is deeper than simply the fear of losing. The problem is an innate terror.

    The ineffaceable memory of being beaten as a child by my father causes flashbacks whenever I see violence, or sense it. The recollection of helplessness, the complete inability to defend myself from a parental ogre three times my size, causes me terrifying flashbacks. The mere sight of men going at it leaves me shaking, overwhelmed by a deafening white noise.

    At the risk of promulgating a stereotype, I must admit that most gay men aren’t exactly known for being pugilists. Yet we are tough in our own way. Emotionally steeled, we’ve cultivated a flinty skin to protect us from ridicule, harassment, and scorn. We rarely go mano a mano. Snatching a wig off a drag queen is about as confrontational as we get. Yet when it comes to a battle of sarcasm and wit, we are fearless warriors.

    “Oh really, honey? Tell me, did your mother have any normal kids, or were they all just as retarded and ugly as you?”
    “You nelly handbag, you make Richard Simmons look butch.”

    Gay men hone their humor to hide their pain. But in prison, there is none of that witty repartee. Incarcerated men are reluctant to expose themselves, to let the façade peel away. Many are scared little boys still looking for acceptance. Fitting in is a survival mechanism. Prison gangs are an extension of that cowardice. They provide protection to those too afraid to stand out from the crowd—to fend for themselves and defend their beliefs.

    Any deviance from prison norms is suspect. A man who doesn’t walk with a swagger, his pants loosely hanging, exposing his ass to the world in a defiant “fuck you,” is considered soft. A prisoner with a good vocabulary who doesn’t refer to everyone as “that nigga,” who doesn’t punctuate every spoken thought with “ya heard” or “na mean,” is perceived as a homo. Prisoners who read literature, not ’hood novels, are queer. Most prisoners are afraid to listen to their inner voice, to be unique.

    Yet I too am guilty of failure to sustain my beliefs, to tackle introspection. For years, I suppressed my honest feelings in prison. I feigned; I prevaricated; I denied to others, and to myself, that I was gay. To disguise my true identity, I espoused the anti-gay hostility and embraced the ignorance. Like a gang member, I feared to be distinctive, to stand up for what I believed in. As a result, my sexual orientation began to shift. My sexual fantasies started to include women. Late at night, on a rickety black and white TV, I watched straight porn—antediluvian movies with laughable dialogue, provided by the Department of Corrections (DOC) to appease and quiet the masses. Some of the male “actors” turned me on (some were fat hirsute beasts), but I was also turned on by the women. In much better physical shape than the men, they were often resplendent Sirens.

    Like stodgy parents, DOC only broadcasts the risqué movies on weekends, never on school nights. When the TV porn is unavailable, in an effort to induce sleep, I masturbate in the darkness of my cell. I envision big-breasted women getting fucked by muscular men. During orgasm, I shoot my load into a woman, fantasizing I am a straight man. [...] After seven years of incarceration, I see my sexuality transforming from exclusively gay to bisexual. I have become a victim of my fellow prisoners. I have convinced myself I need to think, and be, straight.

    Prison is so full of animosity and bile that all men are subconsciously affected by it. We attack each other in the yard—punching and stomping—without recognizing the source of pent-up anger. Revenge takes the form of cuttings and stabbings. I see countless men with heinous scars stretching from their ears to the corners of their mouths, some horribly disfigured. Genetically prone to hypertrophic scarring, black skin often produces ugly welts when injured or cut. Guys on their way to the prison showers proudly display knife scars that wrap around their rib cages like vestiges of great white shark attacks. [...]

BEFORE GETTING LOCKED UP, I was a proud gay man. I never hid my sexuality. I reveled in it, vitalized by the aura of the forbidden. At times, entering the chic gay club of the moment, passing the masses waiting to get in, I flaunted my elite status, my membership in the haut monde of New York’s nightlife. But once cloistered behind Attica’s concrete walls, cut off from the world of shirtless, sweaty men on the dance floor and pavonine drag queens decorating overstuffed furniture like throw pillows, I retreated into my shell like a scared turtle. I shut the door so tightly, not a ray of light passed the threshold. Slowly, insipidly, like a metastasizing tumor, fear and self-loathing overtook me, corroding my self-esteem.

    Only a small number of prisoners are openly gay, even flamboyantly so. I admire their courage, yet I treat them with disdain, avoiding the nelly ones like a contagious skin disease. I’m afraid that if I even speak with them I will be labeled gay, a “fuckin’ faggot.” Before being incarcerated, when I encountered an effeminate man in a nightclub or at a cabaret show, I was amused, freely laughing at their self-deprecating humor. In prison, that open acceptance came to a screeching halt. Weakened and emasculated by prison attitudes, I failed to stand on my beliefs. Incarceration changed me, and I didn’t like what I saw in the warped, scratched prison mirror.

    Surreptitiously, shame transformed my values. Prison morality overtook me. The poison and hostility spewed by inmates toward sex offenders, the government, the police and just about anyone who was different from us invaded my mind, my cells, my DNA. Animosity toward the outside world altered my personality, the very neurons and axons that comprised my gray matter. Bitter and venomous, I fantasized about revenge. At night, with my prison blanket pulled over my head, I looked forward to getting out of this Kafkaesque shithole so I could tell the entire world to just leave me the fuck alone.

    As I sat in my cell, penning this essay, trying to turn the prison lockdown into something productive, my concentration was interrupted by the jangling of keys and clomping of boots on the gallery—the ominous sound of an officer approaching. I looked up as he passed my cell wearing purple latex gloves. Panic set in. Purple gloves were used for cell searches and strip-frisks. I heard the sound of more boots approaching, along with snickering and laughter.

    “The assholes in honor block think they’re special, don’t they?”
    “Yeah. Well, we got somethin’ special for ’em.”

    About thirty officers assembled on the gallery, one or two in front of each cell. A white-shirt walking down the gallery shouted, “Take all the sheets off ya mattress. Strip down to ya boxer shorts. Step outta ya cell holdin’ ya mattress.”

    The whirr and grinding of electric motors began as cell gates opened. I yanked the sheets off my bunk, folded the mattress, and got undressed. Making a mental inventory of my cell, I tried to recall if I had any contraband—extra sheets, pillows, a TV with no permit—fuck it, they can have it. My books: I knew I had over the limit of 25. Between the writing class, college classes, favorite authors, Spanish and English dictionaries, and a world almanac, it was easy to far exceed the maximum. They can have anything, just don’t take my books. There was no way I could replace them on a prison salary of seven bucks a week.

    Two officers came to my gate. I immediately sized them up. One was older, looked pretty laid back. The other, a young kid, I knew was a straight-up asshole. He always had some smart-ass comment. If you asked him a question, his standard response was, “What are you, a fuckin’ retard?”

    My gate opened. The young kid said to me, “Step out, stupid, with your mattress.” I picked up my stained, decrepit mattress, folded it in half, and carried it out onto the gallery. Standing there, facing my cell, wearing just boxer shorts and shower scuffs, I felt embarrassed and vulnerable. The older officer started looking through items in my desk area—papers, books, typewriter. He checked to see that my ID number, etched into the clear plastic case of the typewriter, matched the faded yellow permit taped to the wall above my desk.

    The younger officer started taking stuff out from under my bunk: storage bins, two bags of books, and folders with college notes and essays. Riffling through the folders, he threw paper onto the barren steel bunk, forming a pile. He opened my storage bins and took the neatly folded clothes and threw them onto the bunk also. When he came to the bags of books, he looked at me through the bars of my cell. “What the fuck is this? How many books you got?”

    I wasn’t sure, but I knew there were more than 25. “I’m not sure, sir. I think about thirty or so.”
    “Thirty! What the fuck. You know you’re only allowed 25, don’t cha?”
    “Well, I’m in the college program, so some of the books aren’t mine. I have to turn them in at the end of the semester.”

    “College. That’s a fuckin’ waste of taxpayer money.” He threw the books onto the bunk, still in their bags, without even looking at them. Opening my metal storage locker, he looked inside, then picked the locker up and threw it onto the bunk. The steel door banged open. He started removing the contents—batteries, typing ribbons, pens, deodorant—suspicious of each item. Opening my jar of instant coffee, he stuck his index finger into it, swirled the contents, then closed the jar and tossed it onto the bunk. He came across my Braun electric razor—a gift from a good friend. Inspecting it carefully, he asked me, “You got a permit for this?”

    “No, sir. The package room didn’t give me one. But they engraved my ID number on the case.” He flung the razor out of my cell. Striking the brick wall just to the left of my head, it shattered, and lay at my feet in three pieces. I was so stunned, I said nothing, just stared straight ahead.

    After what seemed like an eternity, but was actually only fifteen minutes, the two officers exited my cell. The one who had busied himself examining the items on my desk left everything exactly as he had found it. The other officer, with a baseball cap turned backwards and a snotty attitude, left a mountain of debris.

    As the officers walked away, the younger one said with a smirk, “Take it in.” I wanted to tell him, “Why don’t you take it in? Take it in your ass.” Instead, meekly, I entered my cell, propped my ancient horsehair mattress against the wall, and started to reassemble my cell, slowly picking away at the mess on my bunk, while still in my boxer shorts. An hour and a half later, with everything put back in place, I tossed the mattress onto the bunk, threw my sheets and blanket over the mattress, and lay down, exhausted, my back screaming with pain. Frustrated with the humiliation and abuse freely served up by prison administration, I fantasized about revenge.

    I had once naïvely espoused the importance of change in prison. In classrooms, as a facilitator, I lectured about the opportunities for education and the value of volunteer programs like AA and Alternatives to Violence. In my personal essays I wrote about my transformation as another step on my path to enlightenment. I embraced prison as an opportunity for personal growth. But I didn’t foresee that I would fall victim to the acrid, hateful culture that pervades the institution. Not only the inmates, but the correction officers and even the counselors that run the supposedly rehabilitative programs toss dead branches and logs on the funeral pyre that heats the prison with contempt and scorn. The institutional mantra is “Fuck it, why bother?” I try to be vigilant against such negativity, but it’s so easy to kick back, to exude hatred and prey on the weak. [...]

    As the potent summer sun heated up A-block yard, beefy men on the weight pile stripped off their shirts. Sinewy muscle glistened under the unctuous coat of sweat. In my cell, hidden from their view, I admired the chiseled chests and lean stomachs. I lusted, tussling with guilt. The lustrous black skin radiated strength. The olive complexion of Hispanics enhanced their meaty pecs and stood in contrast to nipples the size of quarters.

    Yet like a frightened child guilty of venal sin, I hid in the shadows. I couldn’t share my feelings with anyone. Drawing inward, afraid of prison prejudice, I built a façade with bricks and mortar. The guilt festered like a boil that needed to be lanced. But as the infection went untreated, the pain intensified, until the pus had nowhere to go except outward.     As I stared out at the A-block weight pile, the handsome shirtless men dissolved. The sun retreated behind the clouds of a steel-gray sky. Verdant grass withered, leaving a yard empty of life. Latex gloves dotted the muddy terrain like used condoms under a shadowy concrete bridge. A ripped pulp fiction novel littered the barren yard. Its pages held the story of a mensch, a Gregor Samsa character, whose transformation left him trapped. Bitter and helpless, he could not escape the confines of his prison.

    As a cold, steady rain fell, a gusty wind picked up and scattered the sodden pages—pages that told a story with no resolution, a plot that failed to unfold.

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