by Jay Goodman

I have been writing about my time in the United States penitentiary in Hazelton, West Virginia. The insanity of this place in the way it’s run is something most people in our country couldn’t ever imagine. I look at our country and how each state is governed by state and federal laws. Now, I look at this prison system that I sit in, and it’s as though I’m in a different world. And this world doesn’t have any law whatsoever. It’s a whole world where anything and everything is allowed to exist.

After my 15 years in the Texas prisons, and now my time in the federal prison system. I cannot help but wonder how these types of prisons still exist. How can they even use the word rehabilitation? I try hard to understand why? I mean surely the people in Washington have had to see what’s going on at these prisons. But they do nothing to change it. And the funny thing is, our government spends tens of thousands of dollars chasing criminals every day. They have criminal’s homes, phones, cars and anywhere else they might go wire tapped. They will spend countless hours keeping criminals under surveillance. Who knows how much money our country spends going to get people to live in other countries, and bringing them back here to face charges. Yet, right here in our own prison system that they put those criminals in, they are allowed to commit the same crime that brought them here to begin with. What’s the purpose of spending millions of dollars a year if not billions, to combat crime only to allow those same criminals, to continue being criminals once law-enforcement put them in prison? Not only that, but the people running the prison system are committing the same crimes as the criminals. Where is the justice in that? Understand that I am not talking about one or two bad guards, I am talking an entire prison system working together to keep their criminal organization running. If this was a group of men on the streets, they would be charged with conspiracy or the RICO Act and sent to prison for life. But, right here in the United States penitentiary it’s being allowed to operate like a criminal family without any worry.

KY came to my cell door and we began to talk. Every conversation we’ve had, I seem to learn a little bit more. I asked him how things have been going. I said that someone in isolation had been beat almost to death. He went on to tell me how he known this guy for a long time. I asked what had happened? He said that he wasn’t exactly sure, but he did know the guards did it. “Does this guy run with your crew,” I asked. “Yes,” he said. “Since your crew does all of the administrations dirty work, why would they do this to him?” “More than likely, it was over money. They didn’t want him killed, or he for sure would be dead. My friend is a big asset to them, he makes a lot of money for them and has always been loyal. But they charge us outrageous prices for the drugs, and sometimes if we’ve had an opportunity, we have gotten over on them.” “What do you think was different this time,” I asked. “He must of gotten caught. Do you think it’s over with? I asked. I believe it is. But, you can never be sure with these people. They called a shot caller down and talked to him. Now he’s in the isolation cell talking with the guy who got beat.” “Why is he talking to him?” “For one, the administration knows that everyone of us are killers. Two, they probably over beat our friend. So, the administration talked with our shot caller and convinced him that it’s in everyone’s best interest to let it go.” “It is in everyone’s best interest, or just their best interest?” “Well, that depends on what happened to our friend.” “Has anything ever happened like this before?” “Yes,” he said. “Have you ever had to do something?” “Yes, some years back. There was a guard that used to work here, he found a stash that was ours and stole it. We also found out that he sold it to another gang. We tried to talk with him but he kept saying he didn’t know anything about it. The shot caller himself tried to convince him, but he blew up and told him to get the fuck away from him. The shot caller got so upset with this guard, that he made a decision to teach every other guard a lesson who might start thinking it was all right to jack us for our dope.” “So what happened,” I asked. Well, when the shot caller tried to talk with this guard, and the guard disrespected him by telling him to get the fuck away, the shot caller saw a few other guards laughing at how this guard had spoken to him. So, he went to all of the other shot callers and explain what happened. He told them to stock up on all the commissary they could. He said that they told him not to worry he was going to wait a good month or two before we do anything. During the next month we started planning our revenge. This idiot guard that jacked us, made it really easy to hate him. He would look at us when we walked by and laugh. Or he’d wink at us and make some kind of smart-ass remark. Also, during this time the other guards who were his friends started really shaking our cells down, and taking shit. They took stuff from us that guards usually don’t mess with. Like onions or garlic, things of no importance. They started listening to the officer who stole our drugs. The funny thing is, they started believing we weren’t going to do anything.” “Why didn’t the shot caller just go to the administration,” I asked. “Because it became very personal. He not only stole thousands of dollars from us, but he talked to our shot caller like he was a bitch.” “Why do you believe the guard did what he did?” “That question is easy to answer. Money. Sometimes Jay, guards come here and start believing they are untouchable. They think no one in here would dare touch them. But, what they fail to remember is that the majority of the prisoners here are never going to get out. This is their home until the day they die. When the guard took our drugs, he didn’t just steal from us, we looked at it like he was also stealing from our family. Remember what I told you before, the people who are doing life and here are able to do things for their family by selling drugs for the administration. Anyway, the time had come to make him pay. Our shot caller had gotten with all of the other ones, and made sure everyone was ready for a very long lockdown. Everyone in our crew had cells together, and we had enough food and other supplies to last year if necessary.” “Did you think that the administration might kill some of you,” I asked. “We discussed what might happen afterward, but we truly didn’t know for sure what they may do. Normally, if someone attacks one of the staff members they’ll get beat or killed. But, since it was us, we felt pretty sure that the administration would call out our shot caller to see what was going on. We also had to wait until the time was perfect. We waited to get this guy, but we also wanted to get all of the other guards who were laughing with this guy as well. It was important to show all of the staff not to steal from us, or bother us. Finally, after what seemed like we may never be able to find the right time, it finally arrived. The guy who had stolen from us, was working our cell block. And his other friends were in the cell block next-door. We talked through our cell windows by hand sign to others who were in our crew to kick it off at 8:00 that night. When the guard who had stolen from us made the rounds upstairs at 8:00, two people walked behind him, not close enough to get his attention, but close enough to attack him. As he was getting close to the last cell, the door opened and two of us walked out in front of him. The other two behind him quickly close the gap, and grabbed his arm so he couldn’t use his radio. He was in shock to what was happening and at first didn’t say anything. Everyone took him into the cell, our shot caller was sitting inside drinking a cup of coffee. One of the four took his keys off his pants and walked out of the cell and lock the door. Our shot caller said, “what’s wrong officer? You look scared?” Right away the guard said “look, I promise you I’ll pay you double back.” “No, that’s all right. I don’t want the money. You can keep it. What I want is something that you can give me, do you know what that is?” The shot caller asked. “No,” said the guard. “It’s something you don’t have, but I’ll have an after I’m done here tonight. It’s called respect. That’s what scumbags like you who come here don’t get it. This is our world, we have lost everything we care about and love. Nothing matters anymore. It’s more important to me, then everything else. Because if I lose that, then I have lost my only reason to live.”

At this time the guard told KY to go to his cell for count.

In my next chapter I’ll explain what happen in that cell and it amazes me that even after this, nothing was ever done to fix or change the situation that even to this day exists at all of the United States penitentiary.

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