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REC.

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Rec. Oxford Dictionary. An abbreviation for recreation.

Activities done for enjoyment, amusement, or pleasure and are considered to be fun.


Rec. Urban Dictionary. A fight.


Whenever I get locked up. I've never gone out to rec.. For one, it's too early in the morning. The guards call for rec. at 7:30 in the morning. Here at Nassau County Jail is no different.


For two, I've always been a loner. So I prefer the privacy of my cell instead of standing around a bunch of inmates talking shit.


I've been here for 5 months now. And by this time most of the guards as well as my fellow inmates who have been here with me for a while all knew that I skipped rec. everyday. But on this particular morning I had to go. My reputation was on the line. And in a place like this. Your reputation means everything.


Yesterday I had a run-in with the 'bosses' of the cell block. Particular the one named Shy. Shy's not only one of the shot callers of the housing unit, but he's also good friends with, and second in command to the top 'shot caller' in the dorm. Tremain. They know each-other from 'the town'.


My reputation here, is the tall quiet dude who stays to himself, stays in his cell, never causes any trouble, but carry's himself well, handled himself well in a few situations, and never went out to rec..


The issue with Shy came after I'd written a petition to the captain in charge of our housing unit.


Our cell block was always cold. freezing cold. Guys would watch TV in the day-room area with the sheets or blankets from their cells wrapped around them. But our cells were even colder. It got so cold in our cells that we nicknamed them 'ice boxes'.


So after weeks of hearing prisoners complain about the cold but not doing anything about it. I decided to take actions into my own hands and do something about it.


During my time there, I'd learned that the best way to get things done is to file a complaint to the unit captain. Near the 'bubble' (the guards command post), There's a medal box with a deadbolt on it mounted to the wall. The box has a thin slot in the middle of it like a mailbox in-order to allow us inmate's to slide the papers through.


Every Tuesday morning the officer in charge of that stuff came, unlocked the deadbolt, gathered up all the letters and delivered them to the captain's office.


In the complaint I used a quote that I'd heard an inmate say about how cold it was.


"It's so cold in here that when I read a book in my cell, my fingers would get so cold that it's hard for me to turn the pages. To keep reading I have to put the book down, place my hands under my blanket, let my hands warm up, until they are warm enough for me to hold the book and turn the pages."


But I knew in order to give the note more of an impact, I'd need a majority of the inmate's to sign it. So I went around the cell house gathering signatures. All of the 'lower class' inmates signed. The quiet ones, the weak ones, the inmate who kept to themselves. And in no time I had about ten signatures.


Although I didn't need all 50 inmates to sign, I thought that the names of the inmates with well known names, who had been here the longest and who have dealt with the captain before would drive the point home even more.


The 4 of them, including Tremain and Shy were all sitting together at a table. These were the guys with the most power with the cell block. They had the best jobs (kitchen), got special treatment from the guards, got in certain contraband like cigs and weed from time to time. And were known for being loud and always ready to fight.


But I'm no slouch. Even though I'm not from Long Island and didnt know anyone here. Did time in other jails outside of were I lived. I have been in and out of jail all my life and lived by the jailhouse rules faithfully. Plus I've been here several months now. Had several good interactions with them, and had a good reputation in the cell block. All of these factors made me feel comfortable enough to approach them with my idea.


I walk up to them and explained to them what the letter to the captain was about and my plan to send him the petition to cut the air conditioning down in our cell block.


After I finished talking I laid the petition, along with a pen, in the middle of the table and asked them to sign.


Tremain was the first to speak. "Oh you tryna start a riot."

The other of the four said "Man I ain't signing that shit. Them mutha fuckas gonna retaliate. they be watching niggas." Shy said, "Word. They gonna take down everybody name on this list and right up charges against us for trying to start trouble."


The fourth guy simply said "Na, I'm not gonna sign it either."

I had no idea what they hell these guys were talking about. I've dealt with idiots who were full of themselves before. And learned a long time ago that arguing with them or trying to convince them of anything would be a complete waste of time (not to mention a potential danger). So without saying a word, I took the pen and petition and walked away.


I may have walked away but I was angry. Very angry. These guys walk around talking shit all day actin like kings. Claiming to be 'leaders', but won't even do something as simple as sign a letter to the captain.


What pissed me off even more is they're the main ones who I hear complaining about the cold. And here I was trying to do something about it to help them out but now they all of a sudden turn into scared mutes. But I kept my mouth shut. Went back in my cell. I was so pissed that I ripped up the petition then flushed it down the toilet.


Sure I had enough signatures to make a good case. But the absence of those key names among the housing unit almost made the petition null and void. Because even the guards knew the names of key figures in each cell block.


A couple hrs. later we got the call for chow. Dinner time.

All the cell doors in the dorm never opened at once. The top tier cells always opened first. Once every one who wanted to eat came out, the guards in the ‘bubble’ then closed all the top tier cells. It wasn't until all the top tier guys were out of their cells and in the chow line, would the C/Os then open all the cell doors on the bottom tiers. And like the top, once all us bottom tier inmates came out they shut all our cells as well. This process was done for chow, recreation, lock in time, lock out time, every time.


I used to eat at the other tables with the other inmates. In that environment people came and went all the time. And when that happens an inmate would many times pick up the habit of the inmate who left. From the moment I arrived at the jail I noticed one particular guy who always ate his meals away from the others. In an area close to the television mounted on the wall. In that spot, there are several seats for the fellas to sit and watch TV. But the guy never used the chairs. During meals he would eat standing and talked to inmates eating near this semi-isolated area of the dorm.


He had been there for nearly a year, and was far from a loner. He was always in the middle of some situation that happened in the cell house, and was known for being a 'live wire' at times. He was also considered one of the upper echelon inmates and privy to the 'inner circle'.


So when he left. I took over his spot. Mimicking how he never sat down. I ate standing up. Further away from everyone else but still communicated with the other inmate near that area.


I was still pissed about the situation from earlier. And for some reason the guy who had a cell right next to mine said "Yo, you still gonna send that letter to the cap about the cold. He was several feet away sitting at one of the regular tables so he had to ask the question loud enough for me to hear him. So When he said it, multiple people hear him got quiet and waited for my response.


They guy that I asked the question. Him and I were cool. He was one of the ones who signed with no prob. I started off my explanation quietly. But when he asked me why I did that. My force got louder. Shy, Tremain, and the other 'leaders' of the cell where all seated together on the far side of the dorm. Near where the last of the tables where.


And I wanted to make sure that everyone in earshot heard the reason why I flushed the petition! There was no response from them. That pissed me off even more. So my force got louder. So as to make sure that they heard me, and what I was talking about I began to call them out by name.


Cause niggas in here is scare of the guards! "Who?" my celly ask. Tremain! Shy! and yelled out the other two supposed 'leaders' who did not sign.


My anger rose along with my voice and I had everyone's full attention.


"Niggas would around here all day talking shit! Talkin bout nothin! Not doin nothin! Acting hard. But scared of some fuckin guards."


Tremain was the first to speak. Without yelling he said. "I ain't gotta sign shit so I don know what chu talkin bout!"


I replied. “So the next time you freezing ya ass off I don't wanna hear you complaining about it nigga!"


Shy was the second to respond. He on the other hand was much louder and aggressive with his response. "Man, ain't nobody worried what you talkin bout!! You best chill the fuck out wit that shit nigga!!"


It was time to make a stand. I bald up both fists. Then In a quick, aggressive stride made my way closer to a group of tables in the center of the dorm. Then said in a loud threatening tone. "So wassup then nigga! Won’t you come over here and make me chill the fuck out nigga!!"

Shy arose from his seat. I assumed that he would make his way towards me so we could square up. But to my surprise, he headed in the opposite direction toward another area of the cell house, in the direction of his own cell.


I was confused. Shy was a big dude. Short, but stout with big muscles. Known for always working out doing push ups and chin-ups below the stairs of the tiers.


He was talking shit but I could understand what he was saying because he was walking further away from me.


Tremain said to me, "Man go head somewhere!" I responded to him with less fervor than I did with Shy. Not out fear. But because Tremain was far less loud and aggressive with his tone and vocab. So I responded as such. And said "Nigga I ain't going Nowhere I'm right here!"


During chow, there are always two guards outside the 'bubble'. Protocol. Both of them had quietly observed the entire situation.


Both now that I started calling people out and being aggressive. They were forced to act. One of them I knew walked over to me calmly. Called me by my last name and told me to go in my cell to calm down. I'd made my point, laid down the gauntlet, nothing more needed to be said. So I followed his instructions and walked back to my cell. The control station quickly closing the door behind me.


From my cell I heard mostly silence for the rest of the meal. Usually once dinner was over and as each tier went back to their perspective cells, it was loud. The noise of uneaten food being tossed in the trash bins. Inmate yelling last words to one-another before being locked down for two hours. But this time it was quiet. Other than some mumbling under their breath. The other two 'leaders' hadn't said much.


I took this as a good sign. A good sign for me. I had stood up to the so called 'Shot callers' and was no worse for wares.


But the situation was far from resolved. lockout was two hrs. away. And once again we would all be out of our cells once again.


During this waiting period. The Cleaning crews would sweep and mop after each meal. Guys who usually never said a word to me gave me nods of respect as they swept and mopped going past my cell. Many of the other inmates did not like them anyways. The ‘bosses’ tended to exclude, look down on and talk down to many inmates who they felt were their ‘lesser’.


A few minutes later my name and number was called over the loudspeaker telling me to get ready, I had a visitor. This couldn't have come at a better time.


Visits are a big thing in jail. It lets inmates and guards alike know that your not some bum and have you have people on the outside who care about you.


Plus being out of the dorm for a little while would relieve some tension on both sides and give me a chance to clear my head. I washed my face, brushed my teeth and waited for them to open my cell door.

The visit went well. But I was distracted and had my game face on the whole. I knew that soon I would be thrown right back into the lion's den.

My friend noticed my demeanor. But I played the situation down as a simple misunderstanding. Knowing that the situation was way deeper than that.


After visitation I was escorted back to my cell block. By the time I got there lock-in was over and everyone was now out of their cells.

Once I walked in, everything looked and felt normal. It was loud from all the talking and yelling among the inmates. Guys playing cards, working out, and the TV blaring. As I walked through the unit on my way to my cell, I noticed the 'A team', Tremain, Shy, and the other 2 'leaders' were all together. Gathered around the television. 2 of them are sitting including the 'head honcho' Tremain. While Shy along with another 'boss', were standing against the wall near my cell. Politicin.

I walked straight up to Shy and said in a low voice. "Yo son. If you feel some type of way about what happened earlier, we can handle this shit right now."


To my surprise he threw up one hand. As to just wave me off and walked away to the other side of the television. While doing so, he said, "Man you just tryna cause trouble man. I ain't wit that shit."


I stood there for a moment in order to say 'is that it?' The only one to speak up was Tremain. " Man he could've been done washed you by now." "He ain't did it tho. So that don mean nothin." I replied. "Man just go head." Tremain replied.


I did not want beef with Tremain. He had been in this same dorm for 3 years now. Nor did I want to push my luck. Shy was the one who made the aggressive move earlier. So my main issue was with him.


Quite a few inmates nearby overheard and saw what had just what happened. I stood tall as straight as I could for a few seconds. Just to see if anyone else had anything else to say. But there was nothing. So I turned, and went into my cell.


There was no more trouble that night. But I knew the game wasn't over yet. In this environment, one has to make sure situations like this are truly over and done with. And being involved in similar altercations before. I knew that I had one more card to play.


The next morning the call came for rec. Most days, the amount of people depending on the weather. Hardly anybody went out during the winter (which it was at this time). Nobody wanted to stand around in a concrete courtyard just to freeze their balls off. But when the announcement came that today's rec. would be held in the gymnasium, most of the guys got up to go.


As for me, I was going regardless of where rec. would be held.

Before going out, all inmates had to have their I

D cards. Instead of the guards, this job was left to a trustee. And the trustee in charge was Tremain. We all gathered around one of the tables to wait for our name to be called. Once an inmate's name was called. The inmate would then walk up to Tremain and he'd hand them their ID card. Placing it in their hand. But when Tremain noticed my name and saw me standing there, he mumbled something under his breath along the lines of "I don't know why." Then instead of handing me my ID card he placed it on the table behind him. I blew this move off. And simply maneuvered around him and snatched up my ID.


My mission not to fight. It was a mind game tactic to apply pressure. 'I'm here, I'm close by, where you are I am.' I will say no more words to him. But just be there. Not only to show Shy that I'm not scared of him. But also his crew, and everyone in the cell block.


During the walk to the gym I was in line a few people behind him. His attitude seemed relaxed. But every once in a while he'd take a peak behind him and made eye contact with me.


Once we entered the gym everyone dispersed to different parts of the facility. All in their perspective cliques. Me. I remained alone.

After entering the gym, Shy turned and looked at me one last time. He said to himself, "let me keep an eye out. I don't know what this dude tryna do."


The gym is huge, there's a full size basketball court, workout area with rusted weights, dumbbells, along with a couple of sorely outdated calisthenics equipment. A ping-pong table, as well as an oval yellow track and field line that circled the entire gym.


Shy and a couple of his crew made their way to the workout area. The only exception was Tremain. He and several other inmate started an impromptu pickup game of basketball. I wanted to remain alone. So I began a half jog around the yellow track line. A few inmates did the same. But I made sure to keep a wide berth between myself and the other joggers.


Going around the track inevitably brought me back to the workout area. Each time I passed there, I never looked in his direction or slowed down. But kept up the same speed and held my gaze forward.

Around and around I went. Rec. Lasts an hour. so eventually my slow strot turned into a fast walk then into a slow walk. In due course I became tired. So I walked to the side of the gym and had a seat.

A few inmates that I associated with passed by. Gave me head nods and a couple tried to spark up a conversation with me. But I acted very aloof like I did not want to be bothered. They took the hint and departed. I wasn't there to socialize.


Once rec. was over and we were all back in my cells. I laid down and went back to sleep. There would be no more pressure applied by me. From that time on, I was convinced that my point had been made.

I had been here 5 months. Jails have a heavy turn over rate. Guys would come and go as quickly as they came. Either going home or being transferred to another housing unit for some reason or another. While others, who faced moderate or serious jail time stayed put in the dorm for a long time. And when the old timers did leave. Seniority changed hands. It was around this time that I became one of the longest serving inmates within this particular housing unit. You feel the shift. Maybe more importantly, so can the other inmates. Many guys who are here now, I saw come in on their first day. Just as scared and just as nervous as I was on mine. Trying their hardest not to show it. Asking me advice and showing them the rope just as the 'ol timers' had shown me several months ago. Seniority didn't mean much in jail. But but it does come in handy in times of crisis. It give you time to form allies. So lets say a hothead new 'fish' comes in and starts trouble with an old timer, it gives you an advantage of having other inmates on your side to support you. Because they know you, served with you longer and will come to your side if anything happens. That includes the guards as well.

As for me. Along with the seniority, I know obtained a new respect from the inmates because of how I handled myself against the 'bosses'. I felt this shift as well.


What incident that happened with Shy was only one of many that I encountered during my six months at Nassau county jail. Only one actually came to blows. But as I said before, most negative encounters with inmates result in mental warfare and intimidation tactics rather than physical violence. Strategies that I'd learned long ago, spending many years of my life going in and out of jail.


The next day after the gym incident, I came out of my cell. And sat at a table in the middle of the dorm. Different inmates approached me. Gave me dap, head nods, and light slaps on a shoulder. But the most show of respect I received was from Yah Yah. Yah Yah was a beloved member of the cell block. He knew many of the guys from 'the town' and is looked on as a legend in the streets. working with the 'Supreme Team' trafficking heroin into Queens since the 80s'. So he had been in and out of Nassau County Jail for most of his life.


He's an older Gentleman now. 60 or so. He made eye contact with me and started walking towards me. As a sign of my own respect for him, I rose to my feet until he got to where I was. When he sat down, I sat down. Even though he was real close with Tremain and was like an elder statesman to the ‘bosses’. He said nothing about the beef between me and Shy. He asked how I was doing and had a mundane conversation with me. It was merely a clear sign to show me and everyone else that he still 'fucked' with me even after what had happened between me and his peoples.


After Yah Yah left another inmate; who I had become friendly with over time, named Kenny approached me. He sat down beside me and asked, "So...how's the petition goin?"


I couldn't help but laugh.

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