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THE LIMITS OF RESPECT BEHIND BARS

Updated: Nov 13, 2019

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Far Rock-way Queens, NYC


If you live in Queens and happen to get arrested and locked up, you go to Rikers but you go to another part of the jail called VCBC. Or, more popularly known as, 'The Boat'. 


The Boat? You ever seen that move Carlitos Way? Remember when that white boy lawyer with the red hair went to visit that mob boss in jail? Remember that great scene when the camera pans out and upward, capturing his red head ass walking over that long side walk toward that big blue and white building? Well. That's, 'The Boat'. 


There's a saying among the inmates, that Queens County Court will indict a cheeseburger. 


ISYN that thing is a building built on top of a barge. Inside. I along with the other inmates and staff, feel the barge sway from time to night. And it was cold. I guess cause it's so close to the water an all.


But this story ain't about VCBC. This tales about what happened inside there. As well as a lesson on jail house politics that luckily I had learned long before. But unfortunately for one kid, school was in.


Most people know that there is a hierarchy behind bars. The Boat was no different. Before I was 'Housed' myself and a few other inmates were told that we were being placed into a 'Program' dorm. We all thought at the the time, that maybe this stint around may not be so bad.


From precinct to your housing unit takes two days. During that time I had three 'Youngins' with me. We had started out from the precinct together. And went thought the 'bullpen therapy' (from one bull pen to the next. spending hours in each one, and the long clinic process, where 10, 20 dudes all have to see the dr. one at a time. More bullpen therapy. Before finally given our sheets and hygiene kit then being taken to our housing unit.


These 'Youngins'. It was their first time on the boat. And they were in there on some very serious gun charges. While on our 'Bullpen therapy' tour. they asked me a lot of questions about how 'crazy' the jail is. They were just as nervous as I was during my first V.I. to the island. I did my best to reassure them that everything will be fine. To carry themselves in the right way. And things are never as bad as they seem.


They were worried if the rumors of the dorms being 'wild' was true. I told them the 'wildness' of each dorm (housing unit) is different. You can get placed in a unit that is laid back and chill. Or you can have my luck and  fall right into a gang infested fight-club.


The so call 'Program house' was anything but. It was the same rough house gang run unit that I was prepared for. But never, ever gotten used to. 

There was the boss (big black dude). The under boss (big black/Spanish dude with charisma). If an issue arose. Most inmates would come to the under-boss first. Instead if going directly to the 'shot caller'.


Then were the soldiers. The younger, louder, violent strong arms of the unit. All of these knuckleheads stuck together. You could catch them chillin in one big group far off in the back of the dorm. Which was my home now. These knuckleheads carried out orders from the bosses, reinforced gang rules, handed down consequences. They would get loud or unnecessarily violent or cross the line. But when that stuff happened. They could only be reined in by one of the two bosses. 


Go to any jail or prison. Whoever runs the kitchen, the phones or they cleaning schedules. They are the ones who control the housing units. 

Only one of my youngins was housed with me. The knuckleheads immediately had him in their sites. But I wasn't worried about youngin. He's from Hammel Housing projects in Queens. Was here on gun charges.


And was just as tough, just as young, and can be just as big of a knuckle head as any of the other ones there.


And after a few weeks. He had been fully integrated into their circle.

When you first come into a dorm, one must establish a president early. You do that by coming through the door, head high, holding your state issued necessities like you've been there before. My youngin and a couple other knew inmates learned this the hard way. while they stuck close to the cell door in a sad little group. I immediately walk passed the stating eyes of the inmates, making contact with some. Made my way through the day-room like I'd been there before, then made a b-line to the sleeping area to choose a bunk. There are no arranged sleeping areas. So you can find any bunk that's open and make it your own. 


Another jailhouse rule: During this time I am in my mid thirties. If I were in my 20s, I would have been expected to make a b line towards the back of the dorm. But being older, that rule no longer applied to me. I was considered an 'OG' (well over thirty). My place was now at the front of the dorm. But there were no bunks available in the front. So I had to look for a 'rack' more towards the back. Just my luck, the only one open was all the way in the rear of the dorm where all the bosses and their soldiers set up shot. 


But I had been in the same situation before. Drawing on my experiences of those situations, I knew my best defense and offense was...silence.


Another jailhouse rule: Anytime you come into a new dorm (particularly if your fresh off the streets). You make you bed them head to the shower. The old heads and the guys who have been bidding for a while notice things like this. Without saying a word, you've let them know that you know the system. And that this ain't your first rodeo.


The only 'program' in 3AA, was the program that the bosses set up. There was 'slot time'. So they controlled the phones. they controlled the food. So seconds were rare. By the time they've stolen or 'looked out' for their buddy or fellow gang members, there were only residue and bones left. As for the juice, they would take these big litter bottles they've saved from commissary, and filled like ten of them up to the brim for their own personal use later. If you were the few unfortunate ones at the back of the chow-line. There was a very good chance you'd be drinkin water with your meal.


The only resemblance of order was Calvin, the 2 shift C/O. Cal was an older gentleman. Had work for the DOC for a long long time. Id say he was late