Archive for the ‘Frog Gravy’ Category

I would like to thank the viewers and visitors to this site, and to say that it is an honor and a pleasure to have viewers from all over the world. I only speak English, but I often try to translate things from other languages using my Google Translate. It is so cool to see visitors from other countries, who are either bilingual or who take the time to translate. Much of Frog Gravy contains regional slang, so translation is no easy task! Thank you so much!

As you probably know, Frog Gravy, the day-to-day incarceration story, is on the clipboard where I am editing it. My first task is editing out the internet stuff, which will take Frog Gravy from 177,000 words down to about 120,000 words. While I certainly hope to publish, I am realistic about the long shot of getting anything published in today’s market.

Three essays are published in the anthology called, This Side of My Struggle, by Editor Nandi S. Crosby, PhD:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_1_15?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=this+side+of+my+struggle&sprefix=this+side+of+my%2Caps%2C214

A fourth essay, called The bridge of Sighs, won a contest for creative nonfiction, and was published in Kentucky in 2009. That essay is about addiction and is on this site:

http://froggravy.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/the-bridge-of-sighs-original/
If the subject of co-addiction in a marriage interests you, or if the subject of cyber addiction interests you, please give it a read.

Here are some stats for the last eight days. Thank you again!

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Camera’s back!!

Rose and Heart: jail art

jail art by CraneStation on flickr

Lillies: jail art

jail art by CraneStation on flickr

For information about a new release book titled This Side of my Struggle, that has three Frog Gravy essays in it, go here.

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.

Frog Gravy has graphic language.

This post is not comprehensive. One could probably write an entire book on prison inventions, slang and situations, particularly if the setting is in the South, where colloquialisms are priceless.

Jail and prison terms, divided into categories and used in sentences, followed by explanations:

Cigarettes

Pheening, jonesing, popping the socket, striker, squares, break ‘em down, smokin’ the bible, phone card, posting up, who’s on the camera

Inmate 1: Bitch. These Camel Menthol Wides. You can break ‘em down and get thirty for twenty squares, and get an extra phone card. I’m pheening for a cigarette right now.

Inmate 2: You ain’t alone. I been jonesing all day for one. Loan me your striker so we can pop the socket and get this done.

Inmate 1: While you’re rolling the bible I’ll post up and watch the hallway. Who’s on camera.?

Inmate 2. It don’t make no damn difference. Ain’t no cameras in the cell.

Two inmates crave a cigarette. They plan to remove the tobacco from a Camel Menthol ‘Wide’ cigarette and roll it into a page from the bible. They also plan to sell some of the rest of the harvested tobacco for phone time. One inmate will stand watch, because cigarettes and smoking are not allowed. A striker is a paper clip, that is placed across the prongs of the TV plug-in to create a spark so that the inmates can light the cigarette.

Conflict resolution statement

bitches got me fucked up, got me bent, skanky, clitty litter, ho, clock out, beat the breaks off her, you feel me, set her face apart

Inmate 1: These bitches got me fucked up with somebody else. Motherfuckers got me bent. Let another bitch call me a skanky clitty litter ho. I’ll clock out and beat the breaks off her. I’ll set that bitch’s face apart.

Inmate 2: I know that’s right.

Inmate 1: You feel me?

Inmate 2: Slap the taste right out that bitch’s dicksucker!

Inmate 1: Bitch ain’t got no mutherfuckin’ teeth. Taste is all she got left to slap out. I got this.

Inmate 2: Peace up. A-town down.

Inmate 1: I know that’s right.

Someone has insulted inmate 1 by commenting on her body odor and calling her a whore. Inmate 1 tells inmate 2 that the person delivering the insult must have mixed her up with somebody who will not fight back, and that if it happens again, Inmate 1 will physically beat up the offending inmate. Inmate 1 solicits agreement from Inmate 2. Inmate 2 agrees and they part ways. A-town is an endearing slang term for Atlanta, a city that some consider to be a pretty cool place. ‘Dicksucker’ is a common prison/jail slang term for mouth.

Random colloquialisms

1.

My public pretender is about as useless as a cat with side pockets .He ain’t got sense enough to pound sand down a rat hole.

Inmate comments that her court-appointed attorney is not doing any meaningful work in her case.

2.

Inmate 1: Earlier at work in the kitchen I was sweatin’ like a whore in church, but now it’s colder than a well-digger’s ass and a banker’s heart. Can we tell the guard to put the heat on?

Inmate 2: That guard couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if the directions were written on the heel.

Inmate 1: Heh. Yeah. Plus, she’s uglier than the east end of a horse headed west. She’s so ugly you’d have to hang a pork chop around her neck to get a dog to play with her.

Two inmates return to the cell from work in the kitchen and find the cell to be cold. They decide that it is unlikely that the guard, who is very unattractive, will put the heat on in the cell.

Request for transfer to another cell

off the chain, drop a note, vet, crazy slip

Inmate 1: This cell is off the chain. I’m gonna drop a note to the vet for a suicide cell.

Inmate 2: The vet won’t do nuthin.’ Better drop a crazy slip.

Inmate 1 tells Inmate 2 that she wants to transfer to an isolation suicide watch cell because of the chaotic atmosphere in the current cell. She wants to submit a request to the medical department. Inmate 2 tells Inmate 1 to submit a request to the mental health department because the medical department will ignore the request.

How to make paint and makeup in a jail that bans everything except certain types of religious materials

Joyce Meyers magazines are the most versatile for manufacturing jailhouse makeup for court appearances and for adding color to pictures that inmates draw for their families.

-Find the color you want.

-Rub a tissue onto stick deodorant, and then rub the magazine color. The ink will transfer to the tissue.

-Use less ink for subtle makeup, and more ink for pictures.

-Canteen Fireballs make cheek color when nothing else is available if you are really pale from never having recreation in the outdoor cage. Substitute red M and Ms if you do not have Fireballs.

- No-shank pen ink on a toothbrush can is sometimes used for mascara.

-No-shank pen ink cut with water is sometimes used for eyeliner.

-Menstrual pads are sometimes used for earplugs, eye coverings, and for the manufacture of tampons, which are not allowed in jail.

-Toothpaste is the most versatile substance in the cell, and it is most commonly used to affix photographs to the wall.

-paper scraps and toilet paper scraps mixed with water can be used to make dice, dominoes and chess pieces.

-‘Homemade’ tampons can be used (Remember: I’m just the messenger here) for hair rollers.

-Jail-issue underpants, wrapped just right, look like a do-rag.

-Elastic threads from socks make hair ties.

Ways to communicate with the cell next door

-Pick up the phone and tap on the wall. Some inmates tap codes on the wall.

-Talking under the door is common.

-Some report that you can flush the water out of the plumbing pipes, and talk through the pipes or tap on the plumbing.

-‘Fish’ things back and forth by running a cable cord with something attached under the door.

Being paraded into court on a chain gang

Here in McCracken County, when you are in jail and you have a court appearance, you are handcuffed and chained to other inmates. The chain gang is paraded across the street and into the courtroom like an orange outlaw centipede, and this goes for people who have not been convicted of anything.

Once in court, you are all seated together, and the court-appointed lawyer says something like, “Your Honor, my client, Mr. He-Sure-Looks-Like-A-Guilty-Criminal is here today, on the line.” The lawyer won’t turn to face you or look you in the eye. he simply waves his thumb in your general direction. Anybody in the passing public can swing by and see what you look like, on a chain gang.

McCracken bends over backward to be insensitive about who you are chained to. A friend of mine in jail was chained up with the man who beat her toddler son to death while she was at work one day.

How to make paint in a jail that has colored pencils

-Shave some of the lead and crush it.

-Put the lead into a bottle cap with a drop of water.

-Microwave 30 seconds.

-Stir in a couple of drops of shampoo with an empty lip gloss applicator, and apply the paint with the applicator.

Woof woof! Bow wow!

Image by TomConger under creative commons on flickr.

While I was locked up, I learned that the home of some of my close family in Seattle was burglarized, and things were stolen. Since I was in Crime Graduate School at the time, I wrote them a letter. I based the letter entirely on things that I had heard in jails and in prison. Your opinions and experiences may differ.

1. A dog is more effective at preventing burglary than a fancy alarm system. I have heard this from several sources. Cat burglars will avoid dogs. Dogs make a lot of noise, and sometimes they have a tendency to tear off the arms and legs of intruders, and then retire to the yard to gnaw on the limbs, while the intruder slips and slides around in his own blood.

2. Cat burglars sometimes actually love that people post those signs in the front lawn, stating the type and model of alarm system, because then, the burglar knows what he or she is dealing with.

3. If you have not recently tested or checked that your alarm system is working, you may want to do that.

4. Consider a gate for a recessed driveway.

5. Burglars don’t care for cameras.

6. If your out-of-date electronics and older model computers go missing, they are most likely at the recycle center and not the pawn shop. Out-of-date electronics have little or no pawn value. Currently, from what I have read, catalytic converters and, sadly, cemetery bronze vases are targets for thieves.

7. Jewelry does have pawn value, of course. Silver in particular is popular in this declining economy, and there are any number of places that buy it. If you own a lot of valuable stuff like this, get a safe.

8. Okay. Your stuff is locked in the safe. What is left to steal? Checks. Many thieves are in the business of stealing checks and cashing them, or selling them on the street. This practice is called ‘check kiting,’ and it is also called the ‘paper’ business, and it can be lucrative. Know the day that your checks will arrive from the bank, and immediately retrieve them from the mailbox or else consider a mailbox lock as an alternative.

9. Don’t end up in jail yourself by getting involved in a Nigerian check scam. To be honest, I am not even really sure how this scam works…but just don’t cash a check if you do not know where it came from. The older version of the Nigerian check scam is called the Spanish Prisoner.

10. Do not leave museum-quality copper pots and other copper items in places where these items are readily visible. The same goes for those long, thick orange extension cords, any and all tools, household wiring and household plumbing.

11. Aluminum is worth a fortune. Put the aluminum ladder away.

12. Some folks say that if you are moving to a city, cul-de-sacs, because of decreased in-and-out access, are less likely to be targeted for theft.

13. Parrots are worth money, and believe it or not, they get stolen and sold to less-than-ethical bird dealers. If this happens with parrots, it stands to reason that it can happen with other pets as well.

14. Another thought: If you have elderly parents or family members who have a physical disability, consider getting one of those push-button boxes that will alert an ambulance, in case of a physical emergency.

15. I believe that the idea that poor people use their food stamps to somehow buy street drugs is the stuff of urban legend. I have never heard of anyone doing such a thing. If you are on food stamps, you cannot even use them to get a cup of hot coffee to drink at five in the morning while you are waiting in line at Labor Ready; I don’t know how people equate food stamps with drug use.

Spartanburg County Jail Portrait Series

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

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

and

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:

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

and

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.

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 Harrys own 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.

Depression

image by koppdelaney on flickr

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.

Disclaimer: I am not a physician, nor am I a mental health nurse or behavior expert. My observations are from an inmate standpoint, and my opinions are my own. I retained my observations in my notes.

I took my nursing training in upstate New York in the early 80s. During that time, I did a six-week internship at a giant facility in the Finger Lakes region, that was originally named Willard Asylum for the Chronic Pauper Insane. When I was there in the 80s, Willard was known as the state mental hospital. The buildings had retained the looks, feel and lingering smell of a 50s institution, but the immense campus setting was beautiful.

During my internship, I had a patient who had been there since the fifties. Her original reason for being ‘committed’ was that she was a lesbian. Her many years in the facility then led to mental decline. I had another young male bipolar patient, whose cyclic illness prevented him from functioning, and a woman who was suffering from schizophrenia of a variety such that medications were often ineffective. I had yet another patient that I firmly believed did not belong in the institution. She was brilliant, educated and well-read. We had a good many philosophical talks that were over my head from an intellectual standpoint. One day, however, she introduced herself to me as Abraham Lincoln.

I observed some Cuckoo’s-Nest-type burnout among the staff and often had difficulty distinguishing staff from patients, but overall, the atmosphere was caring, the patients were comfortable, and the medical and emotional care and support, especially given that the hospital was a teaching facility with constant student involvement and interaction, was adequate.

Today, Willard is a prison.

What I observed during incarceration led me to conclude that this country is edging toward locking people up if they have mental issues, particularly if they are poor, and then not only playing fast and loose with the Eighth Amendment by removing medical care and emotional and family support, but in some cases torturing them. Jails, which are de facto prisons now, are home to one of the largest and most vulnerable segments of society.

In Willard I witnessed treated mental illness. In Kentucky jails and in prison, I witnessed untreated mental illness. I associate untreated mental illness with a good deal of suffering.

Here are a few of the behaviors I observed:

-The man I call Harry, who was housed in the McCracken County Jail, in an isolation cell, yelled for help all hours of the day and night. Some inmates reported that he smeared feces on the walls. We never saw Harry leave the cell for rec. Harry was pepper-sprayed in his cell.

-In both jails I witnessed inmates curl into a fetal position or wrap themselves in a sheet, and sleep for as much as twenty hours a day.

-In jail, I experienced anxiety that created chest pain, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, depression that contributed to not sleeping, occasional disconnection from reality such that I would believe that a dream had been an actual event, and an inability to focus on tasks at hand. I experienced sleep deprivation over a lengthy period, as well as a couple of incapacitating migraine headaches. Some of these issues got a bit better in prison, where I was under the care of a psychiatrist.

-Many women self-report anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts during incarceration.

-Binge eating and disproportionate focus on food and on eating is common in jail and in prison. Obesity is common.

-I was in a cell with an inmate who spoke in an indecipherable rapid volley, and who requested that other inmates burp, cover her up, and rub her legs and back “like a baby.”

-In prison, one inmate washed her hands more than one hundred times a day. When anyone got close to her, or brushed against her, she shouted obscenities and threatened physical violence.

-One woman in Fulton County, aged 36 with children, sucked her thumb almost constantly.

-One woman’s hair fell out when she was convicted and sent to prison. Doctors claim that her condition was not true alopecia, because she had eyebrows, but the same doctors also determined that she was not pulling her own hair out.

-Age-related mental decline is common among elderly inmates.

-Many inmates cannot tell you why they are locked up, or when they will be released.

-Some inmates hear voices and talk to imaginary people.

-Self-reported bipolar illness is common.

-Learning disabilities are common.

-Unprovoked angry outbursts are common.

-Since treatment is being denied or eliminated, many women openly discuss plans to re-involve themselves with alcohol or drugs upon release.

-Self-reported history of physical and sexual abuse is common among incarcerated women. Many women have lived with batterers.

The vast majority of inmates exhibiting behaviors related to their own mental state coupled with the stress of incarceration are serving time for nonviolent offenses. As far as violent offenses go among women, it is not uncommon to learn that the woman killed her batterer.

Jails and prisons resemble mental wards, at least for the women. Jails and prisons are anything but healing.