Murder and Corruption Inside the United States Penitentiary

By Jay Goodman

As I sit in the United States Penitentiary in Hazleton, West Virginia, I couldn’t help but wonder how the federal government allowed their prison system to get so far out of control. I mean think about my last chapter. Think about how this prison system allowed a 90-year-old man to go in the population and be murdered. Think about how far gone this prison must be to give each individual a mental shake when they go in the population. Oh, before I forget. They also ask each person if they know how to make a shank? If they say no, they will explain how to make two different types. One is just something quick that a person can use to stick someone. The second one is called a bone crusher; this one can penetrate through a person’s ribs. It may sound crazy, but this is the reality of the United States Penitentiary.

Most of the United States penitentiaries across our country are killing fields. It’s so far out of control that I’m sure not too many people can imagine that a place like these prisons exist in our country. And nothing is being done to correct the problem. The story I wrote about Whitey Bulger wasn’t a one-time thing. That type of killing goes on all throughout this prison system. I was told a story about a guy who was sent to a U.S.P in Texas, I believe it was in Beaumont. Soon as he got there the prisoners looked at his paperwork, they saw what type of crime he was sent to prison for, then they told him that the time he received didn’t match his crime so they killed them. Remember, they killed him not because they saw he was an informant, but because they felt his sentence didn’t match what they believed he should’ve got.

Another man who went to that same prison was an ex-gang member. Meaning, he dropped out of the gang he used to be in. So, what does the prison system do. They sent him to one of the deadliest prisons around. This man’s first morning there he asked two other inmates if X gang members could walk the yard? The guy he asked said “hell no.” The next question this ex-gang member asked, “was did the prison have a good medical department?” He asked this question because he knew without a doubt that he was going to be stabbed. And sure enough, this guy didn’t make it to breakfast, and he was going from the cell block to the chow hall with two men stabbed him to death.

As the years went by that prison was named “Bloody Beaumont,” because of all the stabbings and murders. My cellie asked the guard one evening “if she would please change the T.V. station for us?” She looked at my cellie like he was crazy. Then she answered, “hell no.” The last guard who changed the T.V. got stabbed. Even the guards understand that this place is dangerous.

I remember the look that was in her eyes, she was scared as she told us about the last guard. Another thing that goes on inside the U.S.P. is an inmate wants to talk with a guard or another ranking officer. They have to ask another prisoner to go with them. If you get caught speaking to a guard without another prisoner present, they stab you to death. Even when a guard or ranking officer needs to speak with someone, they will call your name, and stop another prisoner to listen. I was speaking a few of the prisoners at U.S.P. Hazelton. One guy was from Kentucky, everyone called him KY. When I asked him how long he had been in prison, he said 28 years. He had been at different U.S.P.’s around the United States. I asked him why he never went to a lower security prison? He was telling me he couldn’t even if he wanted to. He started telling me that he had to put in work all the time. I asked what he meant? He said when he got to prison, he was in his 20’s. Once his paperwork was checked out, the white guy set him down and said, look, if you want to stay alive, you’ll have to follow these rules we all live by. One, you can only sit at these tables. And when we go to chow hall, we sit at the back table together. These two phones, are for the whites and Mexicans, the others are for the blacks. These two T.V.s, are for us, you cannot eat or smoke after any blacks, you are not allowed to make any food with them either. You are expected to show up on the rack yard every day, for mandatory workouts. It’s very important that you stay in great physical shape. If you miss a work out and you are not at work or on a visit, we will have to discipline you. I asked what he meant by discipline him. He said, “that’s where two people take you in a cell and beat the shit out of you.” Now the other groups will look at us at all times, so it’s important to always conduct yourself in a good respectful way. He said that our lives depend on each other so it’s important that we never put ourselves in a position that will cause trouble for us.

Next, there will come a day you will have to be put to work. I asked what he meant? He told me, “someday something will happen, whether it’s in our group or we will have a problem with another group. When that day comes, we will take turns on who will do the hit. When it’s your turn we expect you to stab whoever that person might be. When it’s my turn I’ll have to do it. We don’t want to hear that you don’t want to do it when it’s your turn.” I asked him “what happens if you refuse to do it?” He said “then they will kill you.” He went on to tell me that they never fight in the United States penitentiary. Everyone knows the rules. Soon as you get there and check out, whatever group you’re in, they will sit you down and explain all the rules. Failure to follow the rules is death. No fights, everything is done by stabbing you. He went on to say that once a person gets here it’s very hard to ever get moved to a less secure prison. By the time you come up for a security review to be considered to be sent somewhere that’s not a U.S.P. it’ll be returned to put in work again. So, after you stab whoever, it is to death, you’ll be sent to isolation for a year or so. Now when you come up for a security review to be transferred, you will be denied because you just got out of isolation for killing someone. He said the madness never stops. He told me that each race, whether it’s the whites, blacks, Mexicans or whoever. Has what they call a shot caller. Or a speaker. That is the person who decides what’s going to happen. Now the problem with this is, if you have a shot caller that’s a sociopath, which needless to say are all through the United States penitentiaries. The solution for everything is murder. This guy told me, if the shot caller gives the what are to start killing this person or that person, no matter what you may think of his decision, either do what he tells you, or you will be killed. There is no questioning the shot caller. He told me, that he has been making the decision for 28 years, to either live or die. He said that when he first got to the U.S.P. 28 years ago, that he was told by the shot caller to kill someone. And that they gave him a special shake to do the job with. The shot caller said to him “don’t worry, I am sending these three men with you to watch your back, while you’re killing the guy.” He said that I didn’t find out till years later, that these three men that were sent with me where they are not to watch my back. But, to kill me if I didn’t stab this man to death. “Doesn’t this ever end,” I asked him. He said “end, how is it going to end? There is always someone that needs to be killed.” It’s almost like they look for reasons to murder someone. These guys come here with hundreds of years, or life sentences. This is their world, nothing else matters to them anymore. They get in here and start making a lot of money off the drugs and they want to make a name for themselves. So, they feel that it’s important to be more brutal than anyone else, they believe the more killings they have done, the more respect they’ll have. I asked if the guards, or the people in administration have ever tried to put a stop to what’s been going on? At this question he busted out laughing for a minute or two. “Jay, how do you think all the drugs get inside this maximum-security prison? We haven’t had a visit in over a year, there isn’t a prisoner in this whole place that’s allowed to even go to the backyard, let alone work outside this prison. Yet, this whole place is flooded with drugs.” I had already written about this in past chapters so I knew he was telling me the truth. “Also, how do you think all of these prisoners who are shot callers find out who to kill? Jay, we are shut off from the outside world, no visits, if we did get to use the phone our conversations are recorded. All of our mail is being read, going out and coming in. The guards in the administration are in on all of the criminal activity. This place is a criminal organization, a multi-million-dollar business. The shit that goes on has always went on. I came to the U.S.P. 28 years ago and I’ve been stuck here ever since.” He told me, “I wish to God, that I could’ve went somewhere else. But, what could I have done? When you come here you get stuck with the decision to either live or die.” “Has anyone ever got their security lowered,” I asked. “Yes, some people get lucky. Some stay out of trouble long enough and make it out of here.” He finally said good night and told me we would talk tomorrow. As he walked away, I felt a lot of sorrow for this man. I could see in his eyes that he had, had enough. Tomorrow he would finish his story, and what a nightmare he has faced.

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