U.S.P. Criminal Family

by Jay Goodman

In my last chapter I had written about meeting a man at the United States penitentiary in Hazleton, West Virginia, who has 28 years in prison. Meeting him was a real eye-opening experience to the reality of the federal prison system and how it operates. I would get many opportunities to speak with him, plus get a chance to see firsthand how the men doing time there think.

As I have said, this man was from Kentucky, so everyone called him KY. He took a liking to me, so he would stop by my cell every day. We talked a lot about his belief in God, and I shared with him how I felt. I already understood about people who has had a lot of years inside maximum-security prisons think when it comes to God. I spent my first five years in Texas, in maximum security, so I already knew how people there had trouble believing or doubting that there is a God. Even I understood why the man at these types of prisons felt the way they did. It’s hard to believe in a God when so much evil is around you. KY used to tell me that he was raised in a house where God was part of his daily life. He went to Sunday school and then church as he got older. He told me his mom and dad always talked to him about God, and said that they were praying for him. But, like so many others around our country, he tried drugs and started using them on a regular basis, until his wife was consumed by them and eventually, he got arrested.

As I have written over the years, it’s almost the same story in one way or another, of every man and woman in prison. And once his addiction got the best of him, he turned to a life of crime. The difference between him and others was he ended up in the United States penitentiary, and was forced to make a decision to kill or be killed. Many people who came to the U.S.P.’s came here not because they are doing life, because the prison system has a point system that calculates the security of everyone’s past. Like with KY, he had gotten arrested many times as a teenager, then he had several arrests as an adult. Even though his pass was considered low level crimes, his points added up to be high, so they sent him to a U.S.P. He came to prison with a 10-year sentence for drugs, but now he was doing 30 years because he had gotten another 20 for murder. He stopped by my cell one morning and we started talking about his life. He seemed a little down that day, so I asked what was bothering him? He said, “I came to prison in my 20’s, and I’ll walk out of prison 55. I wonder how this happened to me? I was sentenced to 10 years; I should’ve left prison almost 25 years ago.” I asked, “how come you didn’t get no good time?” He said, “I lost all of my good time murdering people.” I asked him, “how many times have you had to kill people?” He looked at me for a second, as if he was either considering whether or not to answer. Then he said, “if I was on the street Jay, they would consider me a serial killer.” “Do you know what’s crazy Jay? I read books in here, and seeing documentaries on serial killers, and truthfully, I have killed more people than some of them.” “How come you didn’t end up with more time?” He said, “I only got caught for one murder, the rest of them were contract killings okayed by the administration.” “What do you mean, “okayed by administration?”” “Look, the first time the shot caller sent me to kill someone, remember I told you how they sent those other men with me, who were supposed to watch my back?” “Yes,” I answered. “But, in reality they were sent to kill me, if I didn’t murder the man I was sent to kill.” “Well, it was not just the shot caller who was testing me.” “What do you mean,” I asked. “The shot caller works with the administration selling drugs. So, the shot caller sends you to do the hit, to basically see if you have what it takes to be a killer. But afterwards I was sent off to isolation to be tested by the administration.” “How was the administration going to test you,” I asked. “Well, first they are going to interrogate you, to see if you’re going to tell them that this was a hit. Or, if you’re going to say the shot caller told you to do it and that you feared for your life. Once you refuse to say anything, now you will be charged with killing the guy.” “I thought the shot callers and administration work together,” I asked. “They do, but remember Jay, they are going to make damn sure you are going to stay solid. You have passed the test as far as being a killer, but now they want to see if you can face a murder charge and not fold.” “So, after you get charged the FBI will come in to interrogate you. Of course, they will try to make a deal with you, to see if it was a contract murder. They told me, that if I would work with them, and told them who sent me to kill this guy, that they would work out some kind of deal for me. The craziest thing though, I felt like the whole time the FBI was talking to me, they were listening in the other room.” I asked, “what do you mean?” KY said, “have you ever had a strange feeling that someone was listening to you?” I answered, “yes.” “Well, I told the FBI that day, that I did not want to talk with them and ask for a lawyer. I got up to leave and as I open the door, I saw the captain standing there smiling. He asked me if I was ready to go back to my cell?” I said “yes.” As we walked back to isolation he said, “look it’s good to always keep your mouth shut. Especially in here.” The next day I received a note from the shot caller when my breakfast tray came. He wrote, “good job on that thing I asked you to take care of. I also heard that you refuse to speak with the feds, I was glad to hear that.” Now tell me Jay, “how could this guy know what I said to the feds? Nobody was in the room except the FBI and myself. Either the captain was listening at the door, or the room was wired.”

The next week the captain came to my cell with some commissary, and told me, “not to worry because a guard came forward that said the other inmate had the shank, and during the fight between you and him you were able to get it away from him and that’s why you stabbed him.” “You’ll never be convicted of murder.” And sure enough, the guard who I’ve never seen wrote a statement. And instead of being convicted of murder, I received 20 years for manslaughter. “But I still don’t understand why you were charged if the administration is working with a shot callers?” “Jay, look at the big picture. The shot callers have to throw a bone to the administration from time to time. They talk a good game about killing rats, and under normal circumstances they will. But the people running this place have to at least look like they’re doing their job. So, what better way than sending the new guy to do a hit, and see if they have what it takes to kill someone. Now, the administration gets a chance to see if you will stay solid. Not just with them but with the feds too.” They let you also get charged, to put a feather in their hat, now if someone from Washington looks at this place, they’ll see that they are doing their job. And, in the end both sides know you can be trusted to kill someone, and not to rat. When I got out of isolation and went back to my cell block, they all knew I could be trusted. “How come you haven’t been charged with any of the other murders,” I asked.” Because, I wasn’t being checked out anymore. The gang I run with are part of the same crew the administration are. We are one crime family, they give us the drugs, we sell it for them. If someone or something needs taken care of, we do it.” “So, each white guy who comes here has to go through this?” “Yes,” he answered. “What if someone refuses?” “Then they get killed,” he said. “Has anyone just told the FBI,” I asked. “Yes, but several things are going to happen. One, he gets a cellie, and the cellie will kill him. Of course, a guard will have witnessed that the guy attacked his cellie, and during the struggle he was killed. His cellie was only protecting himself. Or, he hangs himself in the cell. Or, he overdoses is on drugs, and is found dead.” “Believe me Jay, they get very creative so not to make it obvious to anyone.” “How many people do you believe this place is murdered?” “Jay, every week someone will come here, and if they think anything is even questionable in their file, they get killed. The people who work at the U.S.P.’s are cold blooded killers. Anything they believe that will stop their criminal organization will die. Everyone understands that they could die on any given day. They know that when the day comes and it will come, they will have to do a hit. And if they don’t, then they will die.”

As he left my cell, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. Yes, he was a killer. But he didn’t come to prison a killer. It was something that was forced upon him. The crazy thing is, it’s the same people who were supposed to rehabilitate him that turned him into a killer.

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