by Crane-Station with Author’s note: Frog Gravy is a nonfiction account of incarceration in Kentucky, first in jails and then in prison, during 2008 and 2009, and is reconstructed from my notes.
Inmate names are changed, except nicknames that do not reveal identity.
Frog Gravy contains graphic language.
McCracken County Jail, Cell 107, sometime in February, 2008
Horse. Jail art by Crane-Station on flickr. Colored pencil, magazine ink.
Pop the Socket FAIL
On the way out of a 15-minute weekly visit with my husband (behind bullet-proof glass), I stop in the booking area to wait for a guard to take me back to the cell. On the wall in this area is posted a laundry list of jailhouse offenses that can get us more time than we already have. I scan the list. Then I see an address in Frankfort for grievances.
My hand flies to my pocket, and I fumble for a no-shank pen and paper. I jot only crucial numbers, street names. I commit the Frankfort zip code to memory, quickly.
The guard approaches and says, “What are you doing?”
“Are you writing the address to Frankfort?”
“They don’t do nuthin’ for you.”
“I want to get to PeWee as soon as possible.” (PeWee, or KCIW is the penitentiary for women in the Louisville area)
“I mean, even if you work for them they won’t do nuthin. C’mon now, let’s go.”
“…next bus. PeWee…”
“PeWee? You been final sentenced?”
I think the guard was concerned that I might write a grievance to Frankfort, explaining some of the jail conditions. Which is exactly what I do. There is absolutely nothing else to do, in fact, but write Frankfort. I write everything down, names, times, dates, events, including the pregnancy disaster, and run it all in to Frankfort.
In the cell, back in my own insanity, I fix the towel back onto my head. I find myself in a very unusual situation. I am all alone in the cell. And I have tobacco. And a lighter.
I am so gonna smoke.
In honor of one of the religious in-cell handouts that pictures a multi-headed beast and labels it “The beast of Revelation 13:1-10 symbolizes the papacy,” I have chosen, from a pocket-sized book of rolling papers labeled “The New Testament” and placed in plain view on the windowsill, a page from St. John’s Revelation, to roll the tobacco in and smoke it.
I am seated at the steel table alone, with a towel on my head, surrounded by notes, papers, and origami cranes. Some of my notes are just random, the sort of thing that an insane, entombed person might write:
“Purest of gold walks through the hottest of fires.”
“Israelites’ journey in the desert has to do with poisonous snakes, their bite caused death. People complained to God. He told Moses to fashion a bronze snake- anyone bitten who looked at it would be cured. Modern symbol of medicine.”
I scan the hallway for traffic as though I am about to rob a bank, and seeing no one, I flick the lighter. Nothing happens. Flick flick click click flick click fuck FUCK.
My memory banks kick in. I recall bits of some early conversations in the cell about how to light things.
“…two double A batteries on a steel table and…”
Nope. No batteries.
“…ghost lighting. Guys do it all the time. Just roll the lighter backward….”
Here I sit, in an orange jail suit with a towel on my head, trying to roll a lighter backward on a steel table to create a spark, only the little roller thingies are stuck and they don’t even roll, forward or backward. I hold the lighter up to the light, turn it upside down and focus. There is no fluid in this lighter.
This is starting to suck.
“…pop the socket. Just take a piece of foil, or metal, hold it with tissue, stick it in the socket, and it creates a spark….”
I am a madman. By miracle, I find a paper clip and straighten it out.
“…or you can unplug the TV a little, then touch metal to the metal on the TV cord. See how the TV plug is damaged? Some jails paint the plate but not this one…”
Just about the time the TV wall socket plate parallaxes into my insane view and I begin to formulate a plan, the steel door opens and in walks Ruthie.
I look like the cat that ate the canary. She says, “What are you doing?”
I spit out a canary feather, adjust the towel and ask, “Do you have any idea how to pop the socket? Because if you do, I’ll share this with you.”
Ruthie is beside herself with giddy excitement. “Hell yeah I know how to pop the socket I seen it before! Hahahahahaaa, we gonna smoke!” She runs to her bunk, gets a cup, then goes to the toilet and fills the cup with water, brings the cup to the steel table, sets it down, and says, “Here. You’ll need this.” She also produces a length of toilet tissue and says, “and this. You’ll need this too.”
I ask a question that made sense at the time: “What do you do with the water? I mean, I don’t really think it mixes too well with electricity.”
Ruthie says (I swear to God): “Yeah. You wrap the paper clip in tissue, then dip it in the water, and then jam the wet part into the socket!”
I think I am actually living inside of a Roadrunner cartoon, where there is always something that you want but cannot get, so you are always hungry and pissed off, and in the end there is always an explosion where you die and everyone laughs. The steel door opens again. In walks Christie and Tina. Christie says, “What are you guys doing?”
“We were just about to pop the socket.”
“Rachel! God dammit, I thought you were smarter than that! Y’all are going to kill yourselves!” says Christie.
“Don’t ever use God’s name like that again,” snaps Tina.
“Yeah, Christie,” I say. “Use motherfucker instead. It’s more polite.”
“I can’t believe you guys,” she says.
“Well, quit runnin your dicksucker and show us how to do this right, then,” I say, “Before two more people walk in and then we gotta share this thing with six people. This is not a six-people cigarette. And I’m not cutting it with banana peels again, so don’t even go there.”
“Okay,” she says. “But keep the water. You’ll need it.”
Christie addresses me as if I am a child. “When you pop the socket, it creates a huge spark. You catch it on a Maxipad. The pad catches fire. You will need the water to put the fire out.”
“You cannot possibly be serious.”
“And stick that paper clip into a plastic no-shank pen sleeve,” she adds. “To keep from getting electrocuted.”
We partially unplug the TV, lay the clip across the prongs and there is, quite literally, a huge popping sound, a spark, and a Maxipad fire.
But there is more. We have knocked out the television to all of the cells in the hallway for the entire weekend and, of course since everyone knows who the idiots were, the guards were not at all amused, so they just went ahead and left our TV off for ten days.
The yells start coming from the other cells: “MotherFUCKER!! You bitches knocked out our TV!”
And Harry, down the hall in his isolation cell, “Let me out! Helpmehelpmehelpme HELP! SOMEBODY!! Hellllllp me!”
While the TV is off and I am coming up with insane plans because there is nothing else to do, I decide that a TV show called, “How To Survive Jail Hellhole.” Today we will discuss all of the uses for toothpaste, tomorrow, we will make dominoes out of toilet paper, and the next day we will be popping the socket.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Good morning to all:
Bradley Manning was sentenced yesterday to 35 years in prison for disclosing information that embarrassed the United States government and its military. I believe the sentence is an abomination and yet another injury to our nation’s reputation as the defender of liberty and democracy.
We know people by what they do rather than by what they say. Our Founding Fathers knew that meaningful liberty and democracy cannot exist, if the governed are prohibited from knowing what the government and its military are doing. They designed the First Amendment to protect our rights to liberty and democracy by the Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, and Freedom of Assembly Clauses in the First Amendment.
The First Amendment provides:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
We were lied into a war in Iraq when we were told that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and he was providing succor to Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda.
The War in Iraq has caused incalculable death, damage and suffering to the people of Iraq and to our men and women who served and continue to serve there. The killing continues in Iraq as opposing religious factions kill each other in an effort to settle grievances and gain control of the government.
We cannot undue the harm but we can and must do everything possible to prevent our government and military from repeating the errors of the past.
Bradley Manning is a genuine American hero and patriot because when he discovered what was being done in our names in Iraq, he realized that we needed to know the truth. He could have chosen to do nothing. That would have been the easy choice. He could have decided not to release the documents because they were classified as secret. Instead, he realized that he had a moral responsibility that compelled him to release the documents, despite the risk of harm to himself. He attempted to minimize that risk by releasing the documents anonymously to Wikileaks, but that did not work out.
Now that we know the truth, we have the moral responsibility to do something with the information to assure that our government and its military never repeats the errors of the past. No amount of self-deceit can eliminate that responsibility.
We are learning an important lesson about democracy and the lesson is that the right to choose our leaders means that we are responsible for what they do in our names.
Because of that heavy responsibility, we have a duty to get informed and remain informed about our government and what it is doing.
The First Amendment acknowledges that we have a right to know what our government and its military are doing by prohibiting Congress from restricting the freedom of the press to publish information and our freedom to speak about that information and assemble with others to discuss it and “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Glenn Greenwald knows that responsibility and takes it seriously.
No one who knew what they were talking about ever said that democracy was easy.
Good morning! I was away to see family for a while, but have returned. I have been working on editing Frog Gravy, the incarceration account, adding new material and organizing the essays into order. The posts online are random, but they give a good picture inside incarceration.
We are also going to try to get the website so that others can post, and invite feedback about what cases to follow.
Author’s note: Frog Gravy is a depiction of daily living during incarceration in Kentucky, during the years 2008 and 2009, and is reconstructed from my notes. Names are changed, except in this case, Ricky is a real name. Nicknames that do not reveal identity are also unchanged.
Frog Gravy contains graphic language.
Belly Of The Beast: Ricky’s World. Fulton County Detention Center, early May, 2008.
After committing a major game misconduct by writing the Governor, various government agencies in Frankfort and Washington, about thirty other people, and a newspaper in Louisville, I am transferred out of McCracken County Jail to the famed Fulton County Detention Center also known as ‘Ricky’s World.’ I will become known in the inmate world as the one that wrote herself out of McCracken County Jail.
I first heard of Ricky’s World when I was in the hole after my trial (My judge wanted me in the hole. We had an adversarial courtroom history and would add to it before we uh, ‘divorced.’)
A woman in the hole with me in McCracken said that when she was at Ricky’s World playing truth-or-dare, she ate pussy on a steel table in the cell on a dare, and the next day, Ricky called her into his office and said, “You mean to tell me that you ate pussy on mah dinner table?”
Ricky’s World is a privately owned and operated jail in Hickman, KY. The jailer’s first name is Ricky. Ricky is an enormous man, the size of a tree.
Ricky’s World is famed in the Kentucky inmate community as being one of the places where the ‘worst of the worst’ are shipped.
Since Hickman is an hour away from my husband, he will have to drive two hours each week for his fifteen-minute visit. This is a source of personal amusement for the judge.
During my ride to Ricky’s World, two guards in the front seat discuss slaughtering chickens, planting vegetables and shopping at WalMart and in the back seat a male inmate and I discuss our legal cases.
On arrival I am placed in a hole that doubles as a holding cell for an hour, and I do step-ups on the cement ledge for an hour. A tray arrives through the food slot but I am only able to positively identify the cookies, so I eat two cookies for lunch.
A guard retrieves me to check me into the facility, produces a sturdy 30-gallon black garbage bag with the whole of my new life in it and upends the contents onto the cement floor in front of the front desk in the jail entryway. She begins to paw through the contents consisting of, to my shock and utter horror, all of the mail, pictures, books and magazines that my family had attempted to send me in McCracken.
I observe her for about five minutes and assume, without internal debate on the merits, that she is high. She finally says, “You are a State inmate. I will let you have all of this.” I silently thank God and we head to the cell. We pass a large men’s population cell and head down a hallway with wolf whistles and cat calls receding. The long hallway is painted a depressing grey and the walk actually slopes downward, even though the facility is on ground level, giving the feel of decent into an actual dungeon. Adding to this feel is the fact that none of the cells we pass have windows of any kind. The atmosphere is dark.
We arrive at a door to a cell, and the guard accompanying me fumbles with the keys for a bit, then hands them to me, and says, “Here, you open it.”
The cell is a twelve-person cement room that houses several people on the unfinished cement floor in addition to four rows of three-tiered steel bunks, for a total of nineteen or twenty inmates. When the door closes, I notice how dark it is compared to McCracken and I am thankful, yet disoriented by the lack of any windows to a hallway, as well as the lack of a clock.
I claim a space on the floor and notice that most of the cell occupants are someplace else. Another inmate sees what I notice and says, “They’re at rec. Out there with all the drama. How much time you got?”
“Eight years,” I say. “More time than that woman at PeWee that boiled her baby and fed it to her husband.”
Two inmates, Tiki and Brooke, are seated at a PlayStation. There is even a microwave, I note with increasing thankfulness.
TiKi is younger than my son, has been here for a year, and is a War on Drugs inmate that will go home soon on the Governor’s new early release program.
TiKi is playing “Grand Theft Auto” on the PlayStation.
On the screen, a criminal runs up and down a city street with a nightstick, mercilessly beating the hell out of innocent pedestrians. He runs to the driver’s side of a stopped car, opens the door, throws the driver onto the street, and steals the car.
Brooke asks, “Is this the one where he takes the prostitute into the woods and fucks her?”
TiKi’s car thief picks up a streetwalker and drives to the woods with her and stops. On the screen the car starts rocking, and she says, “Look at the car move faster and faster, and when she’s done she gets out.”
The car stops rocking and the hooker gets out. TiKi says, “Now look. He shoots her and steals her money.”
After killing the prostitute and stealing her money, the car thief returns to the car and drives away, running over several pedestrians on the sidewalk.
TiKi’s thief stops at a pay phone, gets on the phone and says, “I want to show these punk-ass bitches how a real drive-by works.”
The callee asks, “Don’t you just shoot ‘em like you always do?”
“Can’t just shoot ‘em in a drive-by shooting, dickhead. You gotta be in a car,” answers the thief. “I’m gonna show these people how to shoot from the car. What do you think?”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” says the callee.
TiKi is frustrated. She says, “I cain’t git the gun to aim the way I want it to, oh hail. You cain’t just shoot ‘em, gotta be in a car, it’s a drive-by. This is pissin’ me the fuck off motherfucker-you-just-shot-me-you-stupid-prick.”
Author’s end note: For those of you familiar with Grand Theft Auto, my recall of the telephone conversation above may not be word-for-word accurate. It is, however, in essence what I heard.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Good afternoon to all of our friends.
I am posting an open thread because I have been distracted by developments in Egypt, Syria, Japan and the United States.
What’s on your mind?
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Good afternoon to all of our friends.
I am going to follow-up on my brief discussion yesterday about the 9-hour detention and interrogation of David Miranda at Heathrow Airport by British authorities. Miranda is Glenn Greenwald’s marriage partner and he has been assisting Glenn’s ongoing efforts to inform the public about the NSA’s unlawful spying on the public’s internet activities and their electronic and telephonic communications with other U.S. citizens.
Although we do not know the full extent of the NSA’s unlawful spy activities, Glenn has been filling in the blanks with details released by Edward Snowden, the former NSA employee and whistleblower. The emerging picture shows a pervasive pattern of collecting massive amounts of information about the internet activities of people and their communications with others via email and telephone within the United States that have absolutely nothing to do with terrorism.
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
In Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), the SCOTUS distinguished a warrantless custodial arrest, which requires probable cause, from an investigatory stop, which is a contact with a suspect limited to determining whether there is probable cause to arrest. The SCOTUS held that a police officer cannot detain a person to conduct an investigatory stop unless he has a reasonable suspicion (i.e., a suspicion or hunch supported by objective facts and circumstances) that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime.
Foreign-intelligence surveillance is another SCOTUS created exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement.
The Supreme Court decision in United States v. U.S. District Court (1972) left open the possibility for a foreign intelligence surveillance exception to the warrant clause. Three United States Courts of Appeals have recognized a foreign intelligence surveillance exception to the warrant clause, but tied it to certain requirements. The exception to the Fourth Amendment was formally recognized by the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review in its 2008 In re Directives decision. The court held that “a foreign intelligence exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement exists when surveillance is conducted to obtain foreign intelligence for national security purposes and is directed against foreign powers or agents of foreign powers reasonably believed to be located outside the United States.” To protect the telecommunication carriers cooperating with the US government from legal action, the Congress passed a bill updating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to permit this type of surveillance.
The Fourth Amendment and its exceptions do not authorize the NSA’s warrantless collection of every individual’s internet activities and their electronic and telephonic communications with other U.S. citizens. Therefore, the NSA’s surveillance program violates the Fourth Amendment and should be terminated.
We the people did not know that the NSA was violating our privacy until Edward Snowden exposed the nature and extent of its unlawful surveillance program that had been concealed from us by a veil of secrecy.
Our government officials and the NSA have little regard for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Instead of respect and compliance, they conceal their unlawful activity by classifying it as top secret, deny that they are acting unlawfully, and ruthlessly intimidate and prosecute anyone who blows the whistle revealing their unlawful activity to the public. To avoid reprisal, he applied to the Russian government for asylum. His request was granted and he now resides somewhere in Russia.
Glenn Greenwald is a courageous lawyer and journalist who has been exposing the nature and extent of the NSA’s unlawful spying activity with information released by Snowden. Glenn’s marriage partner, David Miranda, has been assisting him.
British authorities intercepted, detained and interrogated David Miranda for 9 hours at Heathrow aiport near London on Sunday. They also seized his laptop computer and cell phone.
Miranda was returning to his home in Rio de Janeiro after visiting Laura Poitras in Berlin for a week. She is a respected documentary filmmaker who also has been exposing the unlawful NSA spy program.
British authorities claimed Miranda’s detention and interrogation were lawful pursuant to Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The Guardian reports,
The White House knew the move was coming.
“There was a heads up that was provided by the British government,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday.
So the United States knew it “was likely to occur, but it’s not something that we’ve requested and it’s something that was done specifically by the British law enforcement officials there,” he said.
He would not comment on whether the United States has obtained material from Miranda’s laptop — and would not say whether President Barack Obama condemns the detention.
I suspect the United States government may have contacted the British authorities and asked them to interrogate David Miranda at Heathrow and seize his laptop and phone because they suspect he possessed classified information about the unlawful NSA spy program obtained from Snowden or Poitras. They wanted to intimidate Miranda and by extension Glenn Greenwald to scare him away from publishing more articles about the unlawful program.
Glenn Greewald said in The Guardian,
“This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism,” he said.
“It’s bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It’s worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic. Even the Mafia had ethical rules against targeting the family members of people they felt threatened by.”
The intimidation tactic reminds me of Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby’s effort to silence former United States Ambassador Joe Wilson, who had publicly disclosed the Bush Administration’s lie that Saddam Hussein had purchased uranium yellow cake in Niger to enrich uranium to a sufficient level to make nuclear weapons. Instead of attacking Wilson directly, however, they destroyed his wife’s career by publicly disclosing that she was a covert CIA agent. Her name is Valerie Plame.
Will Glenn go silent?
“If the UK and U.S. governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded,” said Greenwald.
“If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further.”
Monday, August 19, 2013
Good morning everyone. The news out of Egypt is awful today.
Remember Hosni Mubarak, the former tyrannical president of Egypt who was forced to resign following weeks of massive public protests during the Arab Spring demonstrations over 2 years ago? Well, he is back in the news today. An Egyptian court ordered his release from prison because Egypt has a rule that prohibits incarcerating a defendant for more than 2 years unless a final verdict has been entered.
Mubarak was jailed in April 2011. He was convicted in June, 2011 and sentenced to life in prison for his role in the deaths of 900 civilian protesters. However, his conviction and sentence was overturned on appeal and he is incarcerated at the Tora prison awaiting a retrial. Apparently, one of two pending corruption cases has been dismissed and the other one is going to be dismissed this week.
The Egyptian military arrested President Morsi on July 3rd after weeks of demonstrations protesting his policies. The military has refused to announce where they are detaining him. Senior officials of the Muslim Brotherhood, the ruling political party whose candidate, Mohamed Morsi, won the national election after Mubarak was deposed are also locked up at the Tora prison.
Meanwhile, approximately 1,000 people were killed last week as the military cleared the streets of protesters. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood ambushed and killed 25 police officers this weekend.
Demonstrators have also attacked and burned Christian (Coptic) churches.
Reports of Mubarak’s possible release later this week probably will produce an effect rather like what happens when gas is added to a raging fire.
The military crackdown is incompatible with democracy and civilian rule. No government can long survive without the consent of the governed. A military government that declares martial law and murders its own citizens ultimately undermines its legitimacy.
Unfortunately, many more people are likely to die before this situation sorts itself out.
In another ugly story reported by The Guardian, David Michael Miranda, who is Glen Greenwald’s domestic partner, was detained and interrogated by police officials for 9 hours at Heathrow Airport near London yesterday interrupting his return trip to Rio de Janeiro where he and Glenn reside. David is a Brazilian citizen.
Glenn has been publishing information that he has received from Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who has been granted asylum by Russia. David has been helping Glenn and the two men also have been communicating with the documentary filmaker Laura Poitras, who also has been disseminating information received from Snowden.
David was detained at Heathrow while returning to Rio after spending a week visiting Poitras in Berlin. The Guardian paid for his roundtrip ticket to meet with Poitras, so the trip obviously had a journalistic purpose.
Interrogating David as a potential suspect engaging in terrorist activity because he may have shared information with Poitras that he obtained from Snowden is a violation of the public’s right to know what its government and the NSA are doing and it’s also a violation of a journalist’s duty to inform the public.
Reporting the truth is not engaging in terrorist activity.
Harassing David for nine hours is pure intimidation with no legitimate purpose.