When I was doing time in Cleveland’s county, in a unit of about forty men, in a room where the officer could just about see everywhere at once, yet someone managed to sneak a cigarette and a way to light it, without the common sense of knowing the guard would be able to smell the noxious fumes. Prior to this happening, I was aware of who it was, and this is when the guard told us all to line up. He advised if the man did not come forward responsible for the act, we would lose our privileges: phone, television and our recreation and remain on our bunks! The first time being placed in the situation and the guilty party not coming forward nor anyone else for that matter, I made the statement, “You know who you are and I know who you are and I will not lose my privileges because of you. Either man-up or I’ll point you out in two minutes!” The person stepped forward, was dealt with being removed from out unit. Afterward, some of the guys came to me thanking me for what I’d done and keeping our privileges.
What I could not understand is why I had to do what I did to begin with? Not that the person would, at first, refuse to admit his action but for the others to stand by and not get involved allowing themselves to pay for one man’s choice. I learned later, by others, I could have placed myself in mortal danger for, “Snitching” except the difference was I did not actually tell who it was to the officer in a secretive manner, but how I brought it out in the open. I still could not understand what the difference was.
Twelve years later in the beginning of this bid, in a unit of about 14 men, another inmate was responsible for smoking and while pretending to use the phone, the guard closed down the unit and this inmate, in for committing murder, disrespected the officer and angered me because it could have been my father he was addressing. My father worked there the very first time I’d been arrested some thirty years before, and I felt it necessary to correct this wrong so I wrote a note explaining what I knew about smoking of cigarettes and marijuana and posted it in the mailbox anonymously. The following morning, our unit was, “Shaken down”; however, nothing was found. I wrote a second note, and another shake-down was done, and the third time I wrote, the guard left it on the mailbox because she questioned who the letter was to go to. Another inmate found it and my being thankful because in order for it to appear it was not a, “Cry of wolf”, I thought to identify myself, but chose not to do it. Another inmate who had had issues with the smoker refused to come out his cell, being blamed and fearful for his life, was taken out and placed elsewhere. Anticipating another shake-down, I left aspirin in an inconspicuous place, which were found and I was removed and placed in, “The Box” for the infraction.
A week later, I was brought before the Hearing Committee and confided in them it was I who had been trying to remove the inmate responsible for the problem and for having disrespected the officer. The Hearing Officer, believed my story having been the one involved in the searches as a result of my anonymous notes. Although still found guilty for the aspirin, I was not assessed the $25 fine and returned to the unit now being considered one of the, “Bad Boys” which made the remainder of my stay easier because the staff were made aware I was supportive of their need to provide us a safer environment. Now, those actions of mine would be considered, “Snitching” and bad things could have occurred to me, if nothing else than to be tagged a, “Snitch” and needing protective custody throughout my prison bid, even today, but it did not happen.
The Bible says, “If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge, to testify regarding something he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible.” Leviticus 5:1.
While doing my federal bid in Puerto Rico, our food was transported in food carts and in a unit of 140 men, some found it necessary to go through the carts for more than their share. One day, some took bags of oranges, as I watched them hide them in their cells while the officer felt it more important to be on the phone and not keeping watch. When it was my turn to get my food, they ran out of oranges! While others would do without, not this inmate. I told the guard, in front of everyone who took bags of oranges what cells to find them. He recovered the oranges and those who would not speak for themselves were able to get their proper allotment while those who stole were exposed should it ever occur again.
Being in a large, two-storied unit with most not speaking my language, who could hurt me easily, some would question why would I do such a thing? I would question why not do it? Why lose what is your right because of a few who have no respect for themselves nor you?
Someone needs to stand up. Just now, perhaps providentially, an issue has arose about, “Snitching” between an officer and inmate. I’m listening to the exchange now! Even in the administration, I heard a sergeant complain to another officer that another officer went above his head to the lieutenant! What is wrong with the mentality of men today?
Getting back, prisons do not have to become the hell-hole they’re known for if, “Men” stand up and make those who refuse to be, “Men” become accountable for their actions. I will not be penalized, by someone else, who wears the same uniform I do, all because of a code it’s between them and us, when the, “Us” we are deprives those of, “Us” from what little we have left! No, I refuse to.
And, you should, too!