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4. "Man Can Get Used To Anything."

Editor's note - Ryan's father passed along some important information. "'For those sending books, bear in mind it can take another two weeks to get from prison office to Ryan's cell. And thanks for sending them, of course'. ~Kemo's Pappy" Thanks for the update. Information regarding books sent to Ryan can be found here.

I am hoping to have more entries on the story of my past soon (if there is interest) but I have to steel myself for becoming totally honest, and to be honest, I'm not there yet.  So to add some weight to this blog, I want to discuss the human condition.  That also isn't true.  First I want to talk about my good friend and the creator of this blog, John.  Most of you reading this are familiar with John.  He's one of those people who always, not sometimes, do what they say they are going to do.  This isn't an affront to anyone, only a truth which sadly, I am not guilty of.  John is also annoyingly smart; annoying because he's smarter than me.  Mostly I just want to thank him for the great books he sends me and for getting this set up so fast.  He's also the reason this is so readable as my spelling is as bad as my penmanship.  So, with all dick-sucking aside, back to THE HUMAN CONDITION.

It is true that a person can get used to anything.  Prison being the least horrible in the grand scheme of horrible things.  I think where prison fails in it's attempt to rehabilitate is it's misunderstanding of this most basic condition.

It has to do with the ease of living the longer you're here.  A man who has his arm cut off is in agony and pain, then he will most likely become severely depressed, especially if this happens to be his primary arm used for jerking off, or had the sweetest tattoo, or simply because it's HIS fucking ARM.  Then comes an acceptance and, the most important thing here, adaptation in his lifestyle to fit this change.  This is a permanent change.  This guy has to buy all left-handed cups, re-learn how to drive his manual-transmission car, or *gasp* stop riding his motorcycle, learn to have a gentle, loving hook touch, etc.  Christ, wiping his ass will now be an action that has to be considered before just jumping in.

All of this is after he has screamed and cursed God, pounded his chest and claimed everyone within shouting distance to be at fault.  It's after he hides in his house and contemplates killing himself quietly because his pride doesn't allow open talk of such a taboo subject, not to mention the logistics of one-armed suicide.

Only after that comes acceptance, if he's lucky.

This is where prison fails.  It takes you through the pain and anger, the shame and depression.  It then gently guides you through the five to twenty more years of acceptance.  the problem here is that you begin to accept an unacceptable lifestyle.  You are surrounded (mostly, anyway) by deviants and degenerates for those years, and the acceptance is an acceptance of deviancy.

Nobody reading this could ever contemplate knowing or talk to a child rapist and murderer.  this is almost unfathomable to most people.  Here, you could be living in the same 10 foot by 16 foot room with him.

Now, some people hear stories about how these people are the lowest scum even in prison and are not tolerated.  I'm here to tell you that is bullshit.  While they are unpopular and easily spotted, (usually with wet, predatory eyes and a bible clenched to his chest like God has a soft spot in his heart for child molesters. Well, evidently he does if you think about it.) they are fucked with less than most.  Half from the stigma of the crime and half because they're fucking weirdos and nobody wants to have a conversation with a mouth breather discussing the merits of Jolly Rancher bait piles.  For the most part they are treated like your common purse snatcher.  After months you're discussing what the menu is at chow and how much of a bitch your wife is.  My point is that the most degenerate become the norm.  Man can get used to anything.

Once life in prison becomes acceptable it becomes all one knows or will accept, because while it's true that all humans can become used to anything, strangely, it's also true that humans cannot bear change.  Everything that you learn to accept here is done for a basic reason - your inability to change.  What are you unwilling to change?  The fact that you rather enjoy breathing.  While this is an oversimplification it is 100% right.  You accept your surroundings 1.) because it becomes the norm over time, but also 2.) to buck this could be potentially harmful to your well-being.  So we get along.  You learn to accept the presence of rapists and murderers.

You also become a product of the prison itself.  While I understand this isn't true in every case, I think exceptions are only there to prove the rule.  While in prison you learn to get along, to survive.  You will become something you are not, at some point.  I will go more into depth on the individual aspects in future entries.  For now, I'll stay more general.  Think of this as prison theory if you want.

This is a system of predators, plain and simple.  The old saying is 99% true, "If your're not a predator, you're the prey." and you'll adjust to this over time or you wont.  Whichever happens, you'll be put into one of these groups because there wouldn't be prey if there weren't so many predators, the ones who eat those who fail to adjust.

Neither of these groups are good for a society outside of prison.  Fuck, neither are good inside prison, but most WILL be released one day and like I said, man does not like to change.  Once life in prison becomes the norm, how is one expected to adjust quickly to a life infinitely harder than the one in prison.  I say harder because it's true.  It is harder to maintain when your options are uncountable.  While life is inherently dangerous in prison, your choices are so few it becomes almost comfortable.  The ethics, if you want to call them that, are absolutely black and white.  It is or it isn't.  You live by a convict code that drives the decisions you make, and one of the "number ones" is never talk to or cooperate with the guards.  A total disrespect for authority.  TOTAL.  Black and white, not sometimes cooperate with a guard, or in certain circumstances cooperate with a guard.  NEVER cooperate with a guard.  Not following this rule will result in you being ostracized.  This is unacceptable as it immediately puts you in the "prey" category.  So what does this do?  It drives further acceptance.  If you were out at a bar and you walked in to the bathroom and found the bouncer ass raping your friend you would (depending on your willingness to die in an honorable stance) try to help him stop being ass raped and then call the cops to make sure others don't get ass raped.  That is a perfectly agreeable thing to do.  You help out a friend and do your part to help strangers.  Here you walk by someone getting ass raped (and you will) and you avert your eyes, tell yourself it's none of you business.  that what you get for being prey.  You certainly don't tell the guards.  A snitch is worse than a child rapist (IN WHAT FUCKING WORLD?!).  You walk by, and after the first couple of times you don't even have nightmares anymore.  The cogs continue to mesh.  Most of us will be out again, and most wont be able to adapt.  This is a sad truth and the reason there are so many repeat offenders.  Us deviants and rape watchers can't be entirely to blame, not entirely.

3. "...learn fast or spend a week in the hole learning slow."

If you've never seen cattle herded for butchering this will be hard to explain but the intake process was a lot like it.  the men are scared, if only of the unknown, and defiant because of it and the seasoned guards are tired, fast, and pissed.  As soon as you enter you're directed to a large room where you're instructed to take off all your clothes.  Slippers, socks, underwear, everyfucking-thing.  You're asked to lift your balls, tongue, and spread your ass cheeks.  Now I hadn't thought to bring anything with me in my ass but apparently number 5 in line did cause they took him to another room.  The word was he had dice in there.  Dice are used for gambling and in prison are worth $35 for a set of two.  I'm not sure about you, but I wouldn't put an easy-fitting 35 dollars worth of bills in my ass, let alone two square lumps of plastic which I would later have to pull out, wash, and convince someone they weren't in my ass, and that they were worth 35 bucks.  What if because of supply and demand there was an influx of ass dice and they were now only worth 5 bucks?  Hardly worth it.

We were then given jumpsuits, all 2 sizes too small, so we looked like slaves chained together, pant legs up to mid-shin wearing slippers.  We sat and looked at each other with tough faces that to me reeked of as much honesty as a ten year old trying to look tough waiting to receive a shot at the doctors office.  Within a minute there comes a loud shout of, "NEXT" from across the hall.  We all look at eachother and a shout comes again, "I FUCKING SAID 'NEXT' ARE YOU BABY-RAPING PERVERTS DEAF??  ONE OF YOU GET THE FUCK OVER HERE!"  It was time to clip my nails and have pictures taken of all my tattoos.  I have a lot of tattoos and they draw a lot of attention.  Attention is something you do NOT want to draw from intake guards.  Besides being woman-beating assholes they consider themselves comedians.  "Look at fucking this.  You look like a two year old colored you with a crayon.  JEE-SUS-CHEE-RIST!  Do you fuck men?"  I'm not sure what the latter has to do with Jesus Christ, but I assure you, as of this writing I do not, in fact, fuck men or Christ.  Now this didn't shake me.  I've been used to dickhead guards for years.  Boredom and a false sense of security has made them jaded and prison guards are actually the better behaved of the bunch.  Knowing that a man has 20 years and nothing to lose tends to make you less of an asshole when push comes right down to fucking shove.

It was the uncertainty that made it maddening.  Prison is a new ballgame.  Here you are expected to be a grown-up.  Unlike county jail, where everything is attended to, everything is explained and structured.  Prison is learn fast or spend a week in the hole learning slow.  There is more free movement within the walls and you are expected to know where you can be and where you can not be.  I'm assuming telepathically, although after a week you've pretty much figured out it's smarter to just go where the people who are dressed like you are going.  It doesn't matter where you are, even if the individual doesn't know whats going on or where he's going, the herd does.  even if it's at the expense of the few at the front.  In the butchering business, they're seen shivering under the eyes of the "Judas Cow."

We were sent to stand against a wall, now holding a plastic bag containing one stamped envelope, a bag - yes bag - of juice, and a peanut butter sandwich.  This was the line to wait for the psych.  "NEXT!"  Nobody moved, "Christ" i said, "go around the fucking corner."  I'm a Judas cow extraordinaire.  There's a rattling of questions mostly pertaining to how violent you think you are and if you would like to kill yourself.  The glass-walled empty room outside the doctors room looked like the place they would put you to do it if you said 'yes'.  There was either blood splattered all over it or shit.  Either way, I'm glad I've never been suicidal.

None of this happened fast.  Well, the interviews happened fast, in between was hours of sitting, waiting for someone to scream "NEXT!" from some unseen area.  We were finally directed to the quartermaster where we were to receive our state issue clothes  and where we were first introduced to a prison hustle.

The quartermaster is a fenced-in area inside of the old gymnasium.  There are convicts working inside this cage with a cutout of your prison number to paint onto the back of everything you own.  Three t-shirts, nine pair of tighty-whiteys, two thermal tops and bottoms, four pairs of socks, three sets of prison blues, two towels, a coat, a pair of gloves, stocking hat, and some state shoes, one size too big.  All of these items are marked 370865.  I'm a number.  While you're waiting for these items the inmate workers are beckoning you with alleyway gestures.  "Extra socks for that stamped envelope."  It begins.  Nothing is free on Planet E, especially in a state correctional facility.

You might be thinking none of this sounds particularly bad, and physically it isn't.  Mentally, it's much different.  Just the confusion, uncertainty, and the idea that you haven't even gotten to your residential unit and you're already exhausted is too much for some.  Some break down while they're lacing up their state shoes.  My only saving grace is the act of this process isn't new to me.  I've been gently molded into accepting and adjusting to this kind of environment for years.  this is an admittedly new level but essentially the same.  So far.

We are given a sea bag to load our property into and made to line up looking at the inside of the giant wall.  We are issued our I.D. cards, which is a picture and our inmate number, and directed to our unit.  I am told to go to 1 SOUTH.

I enter into the door apprehensive.  I can hear the men from outside, a deafening echo against the interior wall.  As I enter I see a set of stairs winding farther up that I can see and a desk with three guards staring at me.  I receive a roll of toilet paper, a green bar of lye soap, and instructions that when chow is called I have 4 seconds to open my cell door or no chow.  It's my responsibility to be at that cell door.  I'm cell 6 gallery 2.  There are four galleries with fifty cells on each gallery.  To see the fourth gallery, one has to literally have his head in the fully reclined position.  Men get thrown or jump off this gallery at an alarming rate each year.  One man, a child molester, ziptied his dick to the railing and jumped.  I didn't see it, but I believe it.  Once you enter this place, all things are believable.  My neighbor is doing 25 years for shooting an old man and then fucking the corpse.  It takes all kinds.

I shoulder my sea bag and begin climbing the stairs.  As I pass the cells I vaguely notice the wolf-like predatory eyes looking out of them.  Looking into another convicts cell is akin to peeping into somebody's windows at night, only the people in these houses WANT to catch you.  I get to my cell and I'm surprised, genuinely surprised, at how they managed to stuff a bed, locker, desk, chair, toilet, and sink into a room this small.  The convict dimensions are this - I can stand in the middle of my cell and outstretch my arms and touch both walls (I'm 6' even) and it's about two baby steps longer than my bunk.  About ten or eleven feet deep.  If confined spaces and condensed fart aren't your thing I don't suggest you start robbing old ladies.  I made my bunk, put away my clothes, and laid on my bunk.  I started listening.  The white noise of 200 men talking, yelling, and screaming began to clear.  I could hear the black kids being tough and making fake gun sounds.  I heard somebody crying, hushed conversations between cells.  All the voices are ghostly and skewed as the wall of the unit is only 25 feet away and directly across it echoes all conversation from the four galleries seemingly into my cell.  It's a haunting sound that takes getting used to.  It's true, a man can get used to anything.  I couldn't sleep the first night.  The noise, the crying, the worrying I'll miss my door at chow, the angle the building sits and the razor wire that makes the slightest wind outside scream like maddened banshees unable to carry away the dead.  Now, 35 days in, I sleep too easy.

2. A Date That Will Live In Infamy

Editor's note - This is the first excerpt from Ryan's first official blog post.  He decided that he doesn't mind his name and inmate number being posted.  The rest of his first letter will be posted soon.

Ryan Martin 370865
Macomb Correctional Facility
34625 26 Mile Rd.
Lenox, MI 48048-3000

As soon as the judge told me he would be giving me the mid-guidelines to my sentence my heart dropped.  My years of drifting through the system were over.  I wasn't surprised.  I wasn't grief-stricken.  I was fucking pissed.  They can't do this to me!  I'm too fucking slick.  Since the mid-nineties I'd been skating by with county jail time.  I'll tell you, there is such a thing as too late.  It's just that we don't realize it until we've been hit on the head with it.  It's a common fucking theme; I'm pretty sure it's the premise of Tolstoy's War and Peace, but to be honest I've always lied about reading the whole thing.  I've been a closet Dostoyevsky fan since I came out of the womb.

So, thirty months.  Not the end of the world.  With 333 days time credited it adds up to about a year and a half to do.  The time isn't so much the issue as the fact that I'm going to fucking prison.  All my life, (since I was 14 anyways) I had been looking forward to prison.  Acting hard in the softest county jail in the fucking world, Livingston County Jail.  I used to think, and to a certain degree I still do, old paradigms die long, painful deaths, that being a tough guy was all you needed.  I thought the person who came up with the adage "It is better to be respected than it is to be feared"- I think it was Yosemite Sam - had never been feared.  To be feared is a respect that few ever accomplish.  Ask America, she knows.  It's a proud, glistening wet thing, and it feels like a large constrictor snake.  It was the pinnacle of my night to be drinking  and hear a story told to me about how "bad ass" Ryan Martin was and the person telling me the story having no idea I was him.  I know it sounds egotistical, shit it is, but I had enough false modesty to 'aw shucks' the fuck out of it, and That, my friends, will pull some serious tail.

Well, now I'm in a place where 80% of the people here had the same idea.  Let me tell you, of those 80%, 65% of them are cold-blooded killers.  That I ever thought I was mean is just so much peacock feathers.  There's an old saying, - "All roosters are chickens, but most men are hens."

I got in a van with a certain amount of trepidation on December 7th, 2011 headed to Jackson State Prison.  If you're not from Michigan, Jackson might not ring any bells, but if you do happen to be from the mitten it's Dante's 7th ring of Hell which, if my memory serves, is for the treacherous.  All that modestly bundled up in a tight little package.  Fuck.  It's an old prison and the majority of it has been closed down as it is too expensive to run.  If you have Google Earth, look it up if the system will let you.  Of all those walls, only one is operating, and that's as a quarantine before you're shipped off to one of the many prisons Michigan boasts.  The first thing you see coming off the expressway is a wall.  I'm talking about a fucking WALL.  I'm not sure on the stats, but I'm gonna say it's between ridiculous and retarded tall.  the only thing that takes your attention away from this wall is the razor wire and the small cemetery just in front of the fence.  they're small, ancient looking tomb stones as crooked and random as barroom teeth.  It's the most depressing thing I think I have ever seen.  I once watched some videos on the internet of some children being blown up in some sandy country and it wasn't half as sad as this small grave yard.  These men died in what was once one of the most violent few acres of Michigan.  This thought wasn't the worst of it, they died imprisoned.  The children in those videos probably had breakfast with their families that morning.  they probably pulled their sisters' hair or broke a barbie doll.  There was a semblance of freedom there that even in a dictator-run third world country made it a death with meaning.  The men in that cemetery were told how to move and when to move every minute of every day.  And in between these demands they were wearing armor made out of semen-stained nudie magazines so the handmade knife didn't hit a vital organ, or trying to not become what is the majority of most mens fear, a woman.  These men had to tuck any feeling of fear and compassion between their legs like a transvestite ready for the town.  They had to be something that they weren't to keep the people that they hate at bay.  And they lost.  They died and were buried and were forgotten.  It wasn't a warrior's funeral, and it should have been.  I watched this cemetery go by and it dawned on me - sometimes you don't leave prison.  There are no grave yards outside county jails.

We pulled in to the gates and the walls were so high you couldn't see tops through the windows in the transport van.  Every man with me had on a mask of indifference, myself included, but we all had to have had the same thing on our minds.  "WHAT THE FUCK HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?"