What was prison like?
I got in seven total fights in my two years there. And by fights I mean some of them were just getting rolled on by a couple of people, but I count them as a fight. Five of those fights were in my first three months in Camden County, which is basically East Philly. And it’s one of the worst jails there is. The first day I was in, I was in like, a seven day holding tank that they put people in if they’re dope-sick or if they have flu, they just kind of get it all out of you before they put you into general population. And since my crime was so serious – attempted murder, aggravated assault – I was stuck on a pretty rough block with violent offenders and rapists. As I should have been. On the last day of holding, they brought some kid in and he was crying his eyes out for hours and everybody was just screaming for him to shut up and he was crying, 'Why am I in here, why am in here?' So it turns out this kid gets pulled out of there eventually and the CO [corrections officer] tells me that the kid was out at a club in Camden – an 18-year-old kid at a club in Camden – smoking wet [a joint laced with PCP], and he sees his girlfriend with some other dude and just walked up and popped him in the head. Bam! Killed him. And it wound up being the girl’s cousin. He was wetted out of his mind and the cops locked him up and he woke up the next day and had no recollection he even did it and was just in there crying. And I’m sitting in there hearing this and it was like, 'Fuck!’ It really set the mood for where I actually was. And then the door pops and I get put onto what they call a body block. The first day I was up there I saw some kid get hit with a sock with a frozen can of soda in it. It split his whole face open. Someone stole my shoes and I went and tried to get them back and got rolled on by three dudes – it was a jungle. It was exactly what you would expect and fear jail to be, and I remember being in my cell after I got beat up and not having any shoes and I had this old black dude as a cellie and he’s like, 'You better take off your socks and stay in your bare feet. You’re going to be fighting non-stop while you’re here, so take off those socks so your feet stick to the floor so you can fight.' And I’m lying there as the lights go out in this place trying to foresee this sentence that I had ahead of me, which at that point was uncertain. I had a seven year sentence and a two year minimum, so the odds of me going home after those two years were not in my favour at all with the offenses I had. It was looking more like I was going to be doing four years, so I’m looking at the beginning few days of a possible four to six year sentence and man – I don’t know how to explain that feeling to you, witnessing what’s going on and having to sit there and realise this is what your life is going to be like…
That’s a harrowing first day – how did you survive for two years?
The same way I’m surviving now. Like I said, I don’t believe that suicide is an option for me at this point – or back then it wasn’t – so the only other thing to do is just try to deal with it. I’ve never been too nervous to fight for myself, so that was a plus I had. I was the only white kid in Camden that was in there for violent offences – every other person was in there for drugs – so that made me kind of an extra-special curiosity to everyone, especially considering I weighed like 130 pounds at that point. I was a fucking rail covered in shitty tattoos and I had a big mod haircut! (laughs) So I’m walking around in there and people are like, 'What the fuck is this about?' I probably looked like a school shooter or something! But I just made moves, man. I became part of the environment – I wasn’t scared of anybody, I stood my ground, even though most of the time it just got me beat up again. But I had a couple wins, I started making some moves, doing some semi-illegal shit in there that made me a little bit valuable. I made myself kind of like an asset and put myself around the right people, and by the time I was in prison I was somebody that nobody really wanted to fuck with, because I was making things easier on people.
And you switched to Garden State after Camden?
Yeah. And I only got in two fights up there when I was there. And that was the stretch of the sentence. That was 21 months or something. I don’t want to brag, but I was fucking killing it up there for the most part. I had people bringing me stuff on work details and then I was getting it back in, and then I was you know, bringing McDonald’s to these guys and they were running my tier. It wasn’t easy. It was still bullshit, but you just adapt, if you can. I’ve always been keen on being able to adapt to my scenarios.
So now, is being in NOTHING the most normal life you’ve led?
(Laughs) I don’t fucking know, man. Every time I think everything is moving on and I think the coast is clear, something else comes out of nowhere. And again, I’m not surprised by any of it ever. I almost welcome it at this point – it’s the classic of being in a storm on a boat screaming at God, like, 'What else have you got?' kind of shit. And whatever is string-pulling this chaos can always come up with some shit. But for the most part, this is the most normal it’s been for me. I’ve got a little apartment, I’ve got CC [his girlfriend] with me, I’ve got the dog. And I just kind of sit here with an umbrella open always, you know what I mean?
Words: Mischa Pearlman
Photo: Angela Owens
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