Chapter 11

 

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Stone City: Life In The Penitentiary
by Steven Jennings

 

Chapter 11: Bolt Action

Meet Terry, a little shrimp who loves to chat.

On any given day, Terry could be found walking the track with three or four guys by his side, telling them some bullshit story. I’d always walk by them and say, “Awww. It’s story time.”

One day, Terry told a clever story that got him stabbed in the neck three times. Terry was also bringing in dope, but because he was such an incessant talker, Jeff and I knew we didn’t want to move him in when Mikey left. The guy just never shut up. He lived on C tier, which was right below E tier; we could always hear him talking in his cell, telling one of his stories. Day and night. Midnight or noon. Whether anyone was there with him in the cell, or not.

Terry apparently knew one of the civilian kitchen staff (DOC staff) from high school. Terry got a job in the kitchen and soon had this staff member bringing in dope. But the dope wasn’t Terry’s. He was just having it smuggled in for another convict, and he’d get a percentage once it was in.

Terry had a good thing going if he could just keep his mouth shut. He just couldn’t. He told his celly about it. One night, Terry and all his cellys were high on meth when Terry freaked out for no reason. He beat his celly with a plastic clothes hanger for over eight hours. Must have been some good meth.

I couldn’t see it happening, but I heard it—as did everyone else—through the open bars. Convicts egged Terry on, yelling, “Get him!” and “Whip his ass!” They hooted and hollered whenever the celly shrieked. Convicts love that shit.

The victim was a young kid; just eighteen years old. He was serving only fourteen months and was due to get out in less than a month. This wasn’t the first time Terry had beat on him, but it was by far the worst beating yet. And the last.

The kid went and told everything he knew, which was a lot. As a result, the kitchen staff member got caught bringing in dope. Then he squealed. Police raided the house out on the streets that provided the dope. The residence was home of a single mom with two small girls. Their daddy was in the joint for selling drugs and would be away for thirteen years. Everyone went down hard: Terry, the convict he was bringing it in for, and the convict’s wife. Terry fucked up.

Six months earlier a hit was put out on a guy who couldn’t pay his drug debt. It took place in the chow hall. The torpedo was given a physical description of the target and shown where he sat in the chow hall. Torpedoes are easy to find. For a hit of dope, you can find someone to do just about anything. As the target sat down, the torpedo struck. In this case, though, he struck the wrong guy. Lucky for the wrong target the order was an ass beating and not a stabbing. But it was an eye-opener for the shotcallers. They couldn’t afford to make the same mistake with Terry.

So when Terry got out of IMU ten months later, the shotcallers needed a torpedo to take him out. They called upon good ol’ Billy, who was notorious for dirty deeds done dirt cheap. Terry had no idea he was being stalked out in the yard. As he walked by the phones, one of the fellas asked Terry to hold his phone for him while he used the bathroom real quick. Five seconds later, Billy pinned Terry against the wall as he slid a sharpened piece of steel—a crude, six-inch rusty bolt, filed to a point at one end—in and out of Terry’s neck.

It just goes to show how it can happen to anyone, at any time. Terry was a stand up dude, a good fella, well-liked, respected. He had been in prison for eleven years before this happened to him. He just talked too damn much, and smoked too much meth. Now, he talks with a rough, raspy voice, and his neck sports some nasty scars. He doesn’t talk any less, though.

As for Billy, the stabber, they came and got him a few days later. But because Terry wouldn’t cooperate, they couldn’t charge Billy with new street charges. This time, Billy sat in IMU for 22 months. Hardly worth the $500 he was paid.

* * *

I saw a lot while I did my time at the Washington State Penitentiary. In my three years there, from June 1995 to June 1998, I saw how willing someone was to stab someone they’d never even met, or to put a rock in a sock and crack someone’s skull open. I heard the weak getting tortured in their cells night after night. I saw guys get set on fire.

I learned by watching others. They teach you what not to do. I was respectful to everyone, and I did more listening than talking; even the dull have their stories. I always told the truth and spoke my mind. People didn’t always agree with me, but they respected that I was my own man.

For some, prison is a nightmare. For me, it became just another way of life. I got to wear my street clothes. I’d go to the dayroom and shoot pool or play cards. I played soccer and softball, smoked weed, and ate well. Every day I’d exercise for at least two hours; running, lifting weights, playing handball. I was respected, and when I felt disrespected, I’d fight. I was comfortable and doing easy time up in the state pen.

 

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