Getting Moved to the F.C.I.

by Jay Goodman

Getting moved to a new prison is always stressful, even though I have already 16 years incarcerated, moving to a new place is something I’ve always disliked. It’s really hard for me to explain it. I guess it’s the fear of the unknown. Once a man gets a prison, even if it’s a bad prison, he will eventually get settled in. And once everything is going all right no one usually likes change. I showed up to the federal correctional institution in Hazelton, West Virginia, on December 4, 2020, around 6:00 in the morning. It took about two minutes to drive from the United States Penitentiary to here. But the process took around an hour to get everyone off the bus and inside to a holding cell. This place is northern West Virginia, and this prison is at the top of the mountain. So, it was not only cold but snowing like hell. Once they have all of us inside, they put all of us in a holding cell built for no more than 10. Of course, since it’s so early, they are not in any hurry to get us inside or cell block. So around 50 of us just sit in this room for around 5 hours. Lucky for me, I was one of the first to leave. I moved to a cell block that had been on lockdown for most of the year. My new cellie was from North Carolina, he goes by the name “Killer”. Even though he seems like an okay guy, I felt bad vibes around him. My instinct told me to stay on my guard around him.

Killer told me that this person has been pretty much on lockdown. He said our warden have the place on Covid lockdown most of the year. As of right now we only came out of our cells on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The only thing we were allowed to do was take a shower and go back to our cell. All of our meals were being brought to ourselves, and we couldn’t even use the phone. Everyone was stressed and worrying about their family. One lucky break for me, was this cell block was going to the commissary in just a few days. My cellie Killer said, “this is the first time we’ve been to the store in months.” I was glad that I got a lucky break, there isn’t anything worse than being stuck in a cell for 24 hours a day, and not having the things you need. Because I was a bottom bunk restriction, I was moved to a cell upstairs by myself, which is another lucky break. There’s nothing like having some time by yourself, prisons are always full, so being alone is a blessing. The next day the guards let 5 cells at a time go to the commissary, we were allowed to spend $50. It was only a few weeks until Christmas, and we heard that the warden was going to try and run the whole present a commissary one more time before Christmas. We also heard that we were going to get one phone call Christmas Day. Which is really good because I haven’t had a chance to speak with my family in almost 2 months. I must admit I was happy to hear that. I cannot begin to explain how it is in here without being able to contact our family. Because of COVID-19, the federal prison I’m at has literally cut us off from our family and friends. No visits, no emails, no phone calls. And it’s taking a toll on everyone in here. What most people don’t get, is it takes a toll on our family too. The following week I received a new cellie. He was a young dude, from West Virginia. I couldn’t help but laugh at him because he wore his haircut real short on the sides, and on top his hair was long. It reminded me of the old kung fu karate movies from the 1970’s, the Chinese men had their head shaved on the sides of their head, with hair growing only on the top. He went by the name of Skinny. He wasn’t a bad dude, he was 30 years old, but boy did he have some issues. Believe me when I say, I don’t want to speak bad of anyone. God only knows that I have made bad choices in my lifetime. But the truth is the truth in some situation. And in this situation the truth is, this guy had some very serious issues. He had been using heroin, K-2 and whatever else he could get his hands on for most of his life. His dad was serving a long prison sentence in another state, and his mom had died the year before due to her long-term heroin use. Which made me really feel sorry for him. Knowing how it is to move to a new prison and not have anything, I gave him soap, shampoo, toothpaste and other things he would need. He also asked if I had some coffee, and since I just went to the commissary, I gave him a bag. He’d gotten a check from the government for Covid right before he got here, and had close to $600 on his books. This guy also had a young girlfriend he was telling me about. He was saying she was good people and that they were going to start a new life together. Skinny was back in prison for a few months for parole violation. He was getting out on April 1st. It didn’t take me long to see Skinny was one of those people that have no self-control. The bag of coffee I had given him, was gone in three days. Not that I care what another man does with what I had given him. But it just seems to me, that since he knew we were on Covid lockdown, and we might or might not make Commissary before Christmas, he would’ve used it more sparingly.

Well, Christmas came and they let out three cells at a time to use the phone. It was so nice to talk with my family, it really made my day. A few days after Christmas we finally got a chance to go to the commissary, this time they allowed us to spend what we’re normally supposed to. I was able to get my sweat shirts and pants, which was a blessing. I was also able to get a radio. Everything at this federal prison was expensive, but it’s the only store in town so they take advantage of us. I try to school Skinny, I told him that he should get the things he really needed. But instead, he bought a bunch of bullshit. Within a week, he was out of coffee again, and asking me for a cup every day. He also had no self-control when it came to his food. He damn near a hundred dollars in food within a week. I have never understood people like him, they will eat all of their food, drink all of their coffee, and then expect you to give them your stuff. I have seen people in every prison like this guy. Most prisoners have a problem in this area. They have lived their lives spending everything they got on drugs, so once they come to prison it’s the same lifestyle. Their mentality doesn’t change, they still think the same. After living with this guy for a few weeks and listening to the stories, I understood why he thought an acted the way he did. On the streets, his every waking moment was spent using, or chasing after drugs. I met a lot of people in prison like him. But Skinny not only like to use heroin, but he was a big K-2 smoker as well. He was one of the first people I’ve ever met inside prison that had been smoking K-2 for years in the free world. And boy did it show. Even though he wasn’t using drugs in here yet, it’s all he talked about. We are locked in our cell 24 hours a day, and he did not know how to cope with it. People like him that started using drugs at such a young age haven’t matured mentally through their lives. They have never had to deal with life like most people do in life. They never finish school, held down a job, or been in a serious relationship. They are only joy is being high. So, when they get into a position like everyone else in here, they don’t know how to deal with it.

It only took a week or so before he was really going crazy. I tried to talk with him, I gave him some good books to read, but he would look at it for a few minutes and put it down. I will try to tell him how to make money in the stock market, or encourage him to write a book. Which he thought was a good idea, he bought a writing tablet and started, that lasted for only a few days. He would get frustrated so easy, sometimes he would say, I don’t need to learn how to trade in the market, I know how to make money. I would say, then why didn’t you have your own place in the world? Why were you living at your girlfriend’s place? He then will get frustrated with me. In many ways he was like living with a kid. He only had a few months of sobriety under his belt, but it was driving him crazy. People like Skinny I’ve only dealt with life high. So, trying to deal with everything in here sober, with very difficult for him. He lives in a fantasy world of hell he was going to leave prison and become this drug dealer. When I pointed out how his brother and him got blown out of their minds on K-2, and were robbed at gunpoint, that the man who robbed and even took the shoes off their feet, he would once again become frustrated and angry. The only way this guy could deal with life was high. I knew after a few weeks this was going to be a very long four months. But as we would start coming out of our cells a little more it didn’t take him long to find his one true love.

The Attorneys
  • Francisco Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Phillip Hall
  • Rocio Martinez