Frog Gravy: The Jailhouse Bullying of Harry

by Crane-Station

Spartanburg County Jail Portrait Series

Spartanburg County Jail Portrait Series by David Blackwell under creative commons on flickr.

Quotes related to bullying:

Nokes: What do you want?
John: What I’ve always wanted. To watch you die.


Father Bobby: [about sermons, before the boys are sentenced] This is one of my favorites.
Young Lorenzo ‘Shakes’ Carcaterra: What is?
Father Bobby: “Whatever you do to the least of brethren, you do to me”.

above two quotes are from Sleepers, by Lorenzo Carcaterra

Also, from other Frog Gravy chapters on the subject of bullying:

This bird-killing-and-enjoying-it guard is bespectacled and boyish looking. He was probably bullied. So now he’s just getting a little action himself, although in a chickenshit way, because we are inmates. Behind razor wire, we must restrain ourselves from delivering a good ass-ramming to the guards, and he knows this, and so, he walks around the ball field with that stupid grin and Nazi mindset, figuring out how he can bolster his own weakness by picking on defenseless people. He does this full time.

Med Line: Frog Gravy 40


In the hallway, the homeless man in isolation screams, between obscenities, to the pepper spray SWAT team, “You’re racist!”

“I’m not precious,” says the guard, and I assume he meant to say, ‘I’m not prejudiced,’ because he says, “I don’t like nobody.”

The Hole, The Chair, And The Holding Cell: Frog Gravy 17

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.

Inmate names are changed.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

The Jailhouse Bullying of Harry
McCracken County Jail, February 2008

It is three o’clock in the morning, and a couple of female inmates next door, as well as Meg, in this cell, are on the floor, on their bellies, taunting and tormenting Harry, who is mentally ill and housed at the end of the hallway in an isolation cell. They shout, at maximum volume, “HAAAAAAARRRRREEEEEEE!!! Want some puuuuussssyy, Harrreee?!”

Harry shouts, “HELP! Somebody! Please! HELP ME! Let me out, please Helpmehelpmehelpmehelp.”

Harry’s repeated requests for help reveal, on its face, Harry’s profound lack of understanding of his own surroundings.

I am on my bunk, listening. I cannot help Harry. If I try to intervene, the bully inmates bullying will turn their rage onto me. If I do not try to intervene, they will continue to prey on Harry.

I do not intervene, and I am ashamed of myself. I do not intervene, because I am afraid that I might hurt someone.

I have never seen, nor will I ever see, during my stay in McCracken County Jail, the pathetic man we call Harry. None of us knows why he is locked up.

If the guards were to take Harry out of his cement tomb for recreation in the outside cage, we would have witnessed it, because we watch the hallway that leads directly from his cell at the end to the outside cage at the other end. We never see Harry go to rec. Christie, who had been here for seven months on my arrival had never seen him during that time either.

On my bunk, I try to think things through, although the noise is distracting. There must be thousands and thousands of Harrys locked up everywhere. Harry the person is no longer Harry the person. Harry is a bait ball in a cement cell at the end of the hallway. He is as defenseless as a child. The apex predators are hungry to hate, and they feed on Harry constantly, kicking the steel door, shouting insults every time they pass by, picking what’s left of Harry and then picking some more.

I often wonder if Harry is somebody’s father. Or son. Was he ever loved? Did Harry ever matter, to anyone? Was Harry a veteran, psychologically crippled by tours of duty? I do not know.

Why are the Harrys out there picked up, locked up, and then alternately ignored and picked on? The bullies use Harry almost exactly as they would a bar. They wander by and use him when they need him, and when they’ve had their fill, they belch, toss the glass, and move on.

There are rumors that Harry has spread feces onto the walls on the cement tomb. Perhaps this is the only thing left for Harry to do, to tell himself that he still exists.

I wonder also about Harry’s mental and physical treatment care plans. This jail has a social worker who oversees the medical needs of the mentally ill inmates. While there may be a nurse practitioner or an off-site physician signing off on the care plan and the medications, all initial requests for such must go through the social worker gatekeeper first. The sad thing is that Harry’s profound disability at the moment prevents him from filling out the initial request form on his own behalf.

This jail is not at all unique. Jails are the new ground zero for Eighth Amendment violations of the mentally ill, as I see it. Harrys are warehoused, untreated and abused everywhere.

There should be a zero-tolerance policy for inmates tormenting their fellow mentally ill inmates. If I were the jailer I would post signs everywhere: You torment Harry and you go to the hole, to sit and think about your bullying. Signed, The Jailer. But, it is not meant to be. Rather, Harry is shelved jailhouse prey and nothing more.

What will eventually happen to Harrys everywhere? On my bunk, I wonder these things.

17 Responses to Frog Gravy: The Jailhouse Bullying of Harry

  1. fauxmccoy says:

    frog gravy is an incredible body of work. i highly encourage anyone who is interested to start at the beginning and keep on going. i have read it all and hope others will do the same.

    good work, crane!

    • Thank you, fauxmccoy, much appreciated.

      • fauxmccoy says:

        any time, sister. i was engrossed from the moment i started and spent 3 days without sleeping until i had reached the end. that’ my review — sleep be damned, just read!

        • It was equally weird to write. I had hundreds of pages of notes, but I was unable psychologically to look at them for many months. When I started writing, I had insomnia, anxiety, just the thousand-yard stare that some may call PTSD.
          We do not any longer have a TV – I will never again have one, just for example.

          Our system is specifically designed to promote recidivism and destruction, and make no mistake: entire families do the time.

          Plus, we have the likes of Zimmerman on the outside, free to stalk, rip off, lie, finger bang, shoot and then blame everybody but himself, for his disgusting behavior.

          The system doesn’t make any sense at all.

          • fauxmccoy says:

            yup, it’s all enough to make you want to pack up the old truck with all you can carry and head for the hills. i fight the urge daily.

  2. YQ says:

    Currently (and it has been ongoing) my uncle and aunt are fighting for an appeal to knock off some of time sentenced to my cousin. He was given 60 years for vehicular homicide in the State of Florida. IDK exactly what happened, but I feel 60 years is hard time. I hope that an appeal could be granted… on the other side of the coin-they sentenced a child sex offender to only four years prison and 3 of which was spent to hold a trial that would convict him. He did his one year, and went off to kill another 8 year old child. I don’t know what’s going on in Florida but I feel like it’s due time to regulate. Steve Calkins is still out walking around even though he was last seen with missing persons in the back of his police car… it doesn’t seem right.

    • The disparity is jaw-dropping in this country, and seems to be in direct relation to money. With money and clout, one can do just about anything at all. Vehicular homicide is called manslaughter in my state, and it amounts to as little as 5 years. I know, because I have seen it personally. 60 years is really steep.

      Florida baffles me. They have outrageous sentences and no parole, but only for some people some of the time. The only good news I can think up for your relative is that he may be doing his time in a prison and not a jail, because it is a homicide charge. At least in prison, one can do some constructive things with the time, but yes, this is an overly steep sentence.

      I have seen killers kill, walk, and kill again, while others serve life-altering, mind-boggling sentences for weed. The US has lost its damn mind, for real.

  3. chills101 says:

    Exactly Colin, I’ve been there. I dont understand the point. What exactly is a jail suppose to do. If we get rid of money I’ll bet my life that we would solve more than half our problems as a human being. Money is the root to all evil.

  4. colin black says:

    Ive been in Jail an they are misery generaters.

    The only respite some get from there pain an misery is to spread it.

    Misery loves company an if you can inflict hurt pain an suffering an make some one even more miserable than you.

    Then that’s relief that’s something to savour and enjoy.

    There is no honour among theifs or prisoners its a myth.


    • It’s amazing how different people act when they are crammed in a cage. While I am not a sociologist, I have always been interested in how people act, in groups, under stress.

  5. Two sides to a story says:

    Beautiful, strong writing, Crane. I’m a great fan! XOXO

  6. chills101 says:


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