The holidays are some of the rare times that prisoners get to enjoy themselves more than others. While the longing for home sets in more we often pull together and be a bit more communal, thus allowing ourselves to deal with the circumstances. The food is better on the Holidays and a bit more, and not to mention all the cooking g and celebrating we do amongst ourselves.
It’s hard to celebrate in prison, but we realize. If we ever abandon being human than we’ll definitely descend into a pit of chaos, depression and insanity. And so while people say your time is what you make it?and we can’t make it a beach vacation’we try to make it bearable.
This was my first Christmas in general population. My first Christmas off death row was spent on close custody, locked in a cell and on lockdown. So, it was’t much to talk about. Anyhow, I’ve been and learned the art of inner celebration and joy. Through in a very oppressive situation I still recognize the many blessings in my life. There are not many amerikan holidays that I do recognize (due to my personal beliefs) but Christmas is one that I do, because I embrace Jesus and what he did.
So, I was looking forward to having a good day. And on top of that- I was set to work in the kitchen that day. It was make-up time as far as I was concerned. I’ve been doing a lot of that, by the way. And for those that have been getting contact visits with me they can testify to that.
I woke up that morning and headed to the kitchen with thoughts of sliced brisket dancing in my head. And just my luck would have it we would serve the kitchen workers from the chow hall I worked in. What this means is that my crew would be running the food. (Just as a side note- all kitchen workers get a chance to eat before we feed the entire prison and we are allowed double servings- and the servers of the meal get a little more than double.)
Well, for those that may not know, there’s always some side hustling that goes on in the kitchen. Actually, it goes on everywhere in prison. For those that are unaware and may think it goes on just because the prisoner is delinquent, that’s not always the case. Many prisoners lack outside support therefore don’t get money and when you have a prison system that forces labor upon you without pay that only worsens the situations. So, prisoners must find a way to survive under a system that is not to subjugate them.
Due to the hustling that goes on, prisoners and the chow hall areas are often shook down for items. And since all that good food would be in the kitchen on Christmas day that would take place in full force.
Shortly after we feed all the kitchen workers a shake down crew (of about 5) headed by a Lieutenant named
Strolney came in at full force. As they shook down the chow hall they made their way behind the feeding line where we were serving and they began to take all the trays with food on it. What they were taking wasn’t food that was meant to be sold, but food that was meant to be eaten by us (the servers) once we finished cleaning up the chow hall. It was around 9ish and we had to clean the entire chow hall and prepare to serve Christmas meal. So, what we like to do is finish the cleaning then we eats last. It’s more efficient that way. But, this staff failed to understand that.
The Lt. ordered that all the food be taken. When I saw this taking place and saw that no other prisoner was saying anything I spoke up and asked why our food was being taken. In a belligerent tone she responded that it was too much food and that she wasn’t going to allow us to sell this food. In a respectful tone I responded that the food wasn’t for selling, that was food we planned to eat, because we hadn’t yet. When she inquired of we had fed kitchen chow I responded that we had, she replied that we should have eaten then. Of course this is ludicrous, at the time they want. I tried to explain that to her and show her that it’s better (for THEIR time schedule) when we clean first and eat last. She took this simple act of authority and exclaimed (since I spoke up for the prisoners) that I could get a job change and she ordered me to return to my building. There’s no way I was going for that, so I told her I wasn’t leaving because I had done nothing wrong, and that I was only pointing out to her what the situation was.
That only infuriated her more and she went into a ridiculous tirade about how she wasn’t allowing us to have ?20 pieces of cake.? That was so insane that I challenged her to show me 20 pieces of cake. At that point she stormed into the main kitchen where the officers had taken the trays and she opened a few of them up. I pointed to the tray that I had made that had 6 pieces of cake on it ? 3 for me and 3 for my co-worker. The Christmas meals include 3 pieces of cake for us, so I pointed out to her that I was due at least 3 pieces of that cake before they threw it away. Well- that seemed to do it for her, because she pulled her handcuffs out and told her officers to ?lock me up.? That means take me to solitary. And that’s exactly what happened.
As the cuffs were being placed on me, I looked at the Lt. and said to her- ?So, you’re going through all of this simply because I ask you a question about the food I haven’t eaten and that I’m supposed to have?? Her only response was ? ?yeah dude, because I’m tired of your shit.?
No other prisoner spoke up and no kitchen officer spoke on our behalf even when they know they allow us to put our food to the side. In truth, any kitchen officer could have stopped that situation from taking place, because that Lt. has no authority in the kitchen. That would be like a mail room officer telling a laundry officer how to do their job. Her only authority is if a security situation is at hand. She has no authority to say where we can place our food or what we can eat. But, what officer is going to stand up for a prisoner, right?!
I was lead to solitary as I verbally protested and when I inquired to the Sgt. ( Sgt. Zamora) why I was being taken to solitary she replied that I didn’t have to know everything and that’s not why I was in prison and that if I didn’t go, force would be used. I could only crack a smile at that. IF SHE ONLY KNEW WHO I WAS AND WHAT I’VE DONE IN USE OF FORCE SITUATIONS! It was tempting, but I allowed myself to be taken to solitary. But, I made sure I let her know that regardless if I’m a prisoner or not, I still have Rights and I would stand for them. When I got to solitary I was placed in a holding booth. These booths are approximately 3 feet wide and 4 feet long. They stand about 7 feet tall and they have one small stool to sit on. These holding booths are meant for short time occupancy while a holding cell is cleared for you. Well, some retaliation points were in store for me. I made it to the booth before 10am. After I was held for a few hours I began to inquire what they were going to do with me. The solitary officer told me- ?The Lt. said to release you at 6:15 pm.’ That almost caused me to fly into a rage. I told the officer that was an abuse of authority and either they’re supposed to house me in a cell or let me go. I asked to speak to the supervisor over solitary. I knew he had no authority over the matter. At this tie my body had already
began to go sore from standing and sitting in the cramped space, so I sat down Indian style- the only way to relieve some of the pressure. Once the shift supervisor of solitary arrived (an hour later) I knew it was a lost cause because I had a similar altercation with her and another racist officer some weeks before. But, that’s another story.
I was made to stay in that cage until around 5:30 pm that evening, so I did a total of 8 hours in that cage on
Christmas day. Merry Christmas to me!
When I was released I made my way back by the kitchen and caught the attention of some of the kitchen officers and I told them that I hadn’t eaten. They knew what took place, so I was given some items to take back with me. Upon returning to the pod I ate that food and called it a night. I wasn’t in the mood for and further celebrating. I felt the need to share this story for many reasons. Once, as I’ve stated many times already, just because I’m off death row the struggle doesn’t stop. Secondly, I have not relinquished my fire just because I’m off of death row.
Let me be clear about this- I GREATLY enjoy being able to walk around, work, and ESPECIALLY get contact visits. But, I cannot change who I am. I cannot change what I feel about people in authority who purposely try to degrade us and make us feel like we are dirt. Sure, there are guys here for bad things. But, not everyone here is a killer or a rapist. There are officers here who when addressing a prisoner will tell them (when they get into a verbal dispute) – ?Just do what I tell you to do. It’s not my fault you raped, robbed, or killed someone.? This is what these so-called professional officers say to people. Professional they are not- they’re more like Hitler Nazi’s. This is not every officer, but many, just like not every prisoner is a sick person. But, this is how they breed officers to treat us.
They breed themselves to feel like they don’t have to answer questions. They feel like they can tell us to do things? even things that are NOT rules and policy?without being questioned or resisted. We have rights, regardless. And I won’t relinquish mine.
This is the 2nd occurrence I have had like this where I was sent to solitary for speaking up for myself. I didn’t write about the first one, because it was small and I was let out of solitary about 45 minutes later. It’s true that some officers use that as a ?cool down? process, but this Lt. Strolney used this to try and make a point to me. The only point that she made to me is the same point I’ve BEEN knowing about the system- IT’S OPPRESSIVE AND SEEKS TO BREAK THE HUMAN MIND, BODY AND SOUL!
It’s nothing new to me. I’ve seen worse (little do they know) and they should pray that they never see the best in me, because that would mean full protest mode and they wouldn’t like that very much. The DRIVE spirit will FOREVER live on in me.
I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. I have to make certain sacrifices to retain my level status. And it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, because nothing drills me more that cowardly officers who use their authority to be abusive. They hide behind their uniform. How I will maintain- I don’t know, because as I’ve said… I can’t promise that I’ll always be a G2. I can’t promise that my struggles are forever done. Supporting me is KNOWING these things. Since I’ve been on this unit I’ve done verbal protest, I’ve posted written grievances on this web-site. And I’ll continue. It’s not something that I can stop. At this point in time I am trying to let my pen be mightier than my sword.
The mentality of people that over-see prisons get worse and worse every year. This is why I continue to speak out and ask people to educate themselves to what the Prison Industrial Complex TRULY is.
After all this has been said I must say that it’s a sweet irony to this. While I would have preferred to have had a smooth day I suppose this is just one more lesson of struggle for me. I stopped questioning my obstacles a long time ago. I came to realize that these were my stepping stones, not my stumbling blocks. As I sat in the cramped booth I thought about the people who wouldn’t get presents or wouldn’t even have a full meal. I realized that while I have bad I could have it worse. I wanted the brisket, but tears come to my eyes as I reflect on the unity of pain, frustration, aggravation and rage that surged through my veins and I knew many other strugglers were feeling. More and more my character is defined through the hardships I go through.
The most generous vine, if not pruned, runs out into many superfluous stems and grows at last weak and fruitless: as doth the best man if he be not cut short in his desires, and pruned with afflictions.?
And after all??. Wasn?t this what Christ captured anyway?
I leave you all with love and fire in my heart. The struggle doesn?t stop, and neither does our victories.
Kenneth ?Haramia? Foster
PS- We?ll see how New Year?s goes ( smile!!!)