Eddie's Story Part-6
Eddie's Story Part - 6
“I’ll Split Your Head Back to the White Meat”
Saying goodbye to MIPC turned out to be a big deal. The MIPC program was designed to be completed in six months to a year, but I completed it in four months. I was the first prisoner to complete. Though the Program Director told me he didn’t know if I was genuinely making the necessary changes or was just a good actor, the Program Psychiatrist called me to his office to wish me his best, and told me he would send positive recommendations to MR for me. I was taken by his concern for my well-being and future. Matt, the Social Worker, also saw me and gave me a hug! With tears in his eyes he said, “You’re not supposed to be here. Our justice system failed you, and I wish there was more I could do to help you.” Frankly, I’ve heard that from a bunch of staff during my 46 years in prison.
As I boarded the bus to leave, two Sergeants that I often talked to came to me and in front of God and everyone else shook my hand and wished me well. I ran into one of the Sergeants later, by then a captain, at the Muskegon Correctional Facility, and believe it or not, Jim Anderson continued treating me with the same respect and kindness.
Truth be told, I didn’t want to leave. I was treated good and had a lot of privileges, and I was in regular therapy sessions that helped me cope with the ugly crimes I had committed; something most Lifers aren’t permitted to do, particularly today. I actually asked Matt if he could arrange for me to go through the program again, but it was impossible since there were many more segregation prisoners the Department wanted the program to deal with.
Once on the bus everything changed. A guard started barking orders and the other prisoners on board, all older guys from inside Marquette Prison, stared at me with contempt. I immediately realized they had witnessed staff shaking my hand and wishing me well. Even today, you’ll find staff who will refuse to shake a convict’s hand. I made the immediate decision that if that’s what these guys wanted, I could respond in kind.
The bus ride back was different from the one up. I had a window seat and stayed awake the whole trip looking for cars I recognized, glancing through the windows of houses to possibly see people living their lives. This time when we crossed the Mackinaw Bridge I wasn’t scared: the waves had white tops, and there were boats floating on the lakes. The only part of the bridge crossing that startled me was when we crossed the middle grating and I could see the water way below.
On arrival at Jackson Prison, I was strip searched and again placed in a filthy segregation cell that made me yearn for the clean bright cells at MIPC. I took heart in the knowledge that I would only be here a few days until my transfer to MR. I laid back and tried to sleep despite the cacophony of yells and screams. Jackson segregation, 5-West, is like stepping into a cage of monkeys who think you’re out to harm them.
Finally, I was taken from my segregation cell to a transfer prep. area where I was outfitted with leg irons and belly-chains and put on a fully occupied bus to MR; occupied by prisoners who were all new arrivals to the prison system---I could see the fear in their faces. They knew I had come out of segregation and thought I was a threat. They sat me next to a white guy from Bay City, Michigan whose name was Frank. Frank was about 5’10”, 200 pounds, and scared to death. I tried calm him and told him about MR and tried to reassure him he could make it, but I felt him shake right through the seats we were sitting in. Frank had a 5 to 15-year sentence and was sure he would be sexually abused by everyone. I told him sure that could happen, but only if you made no attempt to stop it. The kid told me that since I had been in MR before, he would let me do anything sexually that I wanted, as long it was just me and I protected him from others. I simply assured him he would be alright and I wasn’t interested in his offer.
Frank stayed in MR general population a week during which he was the sexual toy of several prisoners to whom he offered the same deal he had offered me. Guys were in and out of Frank’s cell as if it were a Las Vegas whore house. The kid serviced everyone who entered, and believe me a lot of guys entered. Frank could barely sit when he finally asked to be put in protective segregation.
During my last stay at MR I had established a rule among Hispanic brothers that anytime a transfer bus arrived with new prisoners, a Hispanic would be there to greet new Hispanics and welcome them as brothers, provide general information about the place, and provide them with necessities such as decent toothpaste and soap and snacks. As a group, we Hispanics collected dues that we used to purchase items that would make new arrivals a bit more comfortable.
So, when I got off the bus a Mexican guy met me who was not at MR the last time I was so I didn’t know him. He walked up and told me his name and where he was from: he was wearing a bandana around his long hair and tried to project how tough he was. I had to laugh after introducing myself: He immediately said, “Oh man you’re Eddie Guerrero.” His whole demeanor changed, almost apologetic. He broke wide to inform others of my arrival. I wandered over to the Control Center window and got the attention of Walt, the Control Center prisoner clerk I worked with the last time I was here. I quietly told him which block and floor I wanted to lock on. I told him I would see him later, meaning I would pay for his services. He could get me the block, but there were no openings on the floor so I was placed on the floor below.
I made it to the yard area an hour or so after my arrival and was greeted by ten Mexicans, some of whom I remembered. Many had walked off their assignments to meet me and show respect. They informed me of what the Hispanic group was doing, and who was now in control. To my surprise, the guy I was trying to protect my last time here was now President of the Hispanic group and in control. This new leader’s version of what happened back then was that he stabbed the prisoner who was hounding him, and I took the fall for leader. I didn’t contradict the President’s story, or challenge his control, but informed him I was now a part of all decision making. I asked who the Vice President was and had a talk with him. Soon after he vacated the Vice Presidency, and because it was a resignation, and didn’t need an election, the President appointed me as Vice President.
I then contacted the Chaplain and got my old job back as his clerk. For some reason the prisoner who was recently elected rock (cell block) representative also resigned his position and I was elected to fill it, thus putting me back on the Warden’s Forum. I then got elected to a position on the MR Jaycees. I was back in business.
Because of the good MIPC recommendations I was allowed into group therapy for sex offenders even though the group had been on-going for several months. The Prisoner Affairs Director, a guy named Bill Weideman, allowed me to fill a DJ slot on the MR radio station that broadcast through a closed system to every cell in the place. This was a major privilege because I was allowed out of my cell every Monday from 9:00 pm to 2:00 am to man the DJ booth. I was also allowed to eat in the officers dining (OD) room on Monday night. The officers definitely ate better than prisoners, and for a small fee paid in advance, the OD prisoner cook would prepare whatever I requested. I ate well on Mondays.
Not everyone was convinced of my change. I was called to the Inspectors office and told that when he read the MIPC report he couldn’t believe they were talking about me. He said he thought I was acting and that he was going to keep a close eye on me. Also, there was a yard officer named Butch Mason, an aggressive officer who liked pushing prisoners to their limit and even falsely accuse you of doing stuff, who had been on my trail when I last left MR, and decided to pick-up where he left off now that I was back. I did my best to avoid him, even turning and walking in a different direction when I saw his coming.
One thing I learned at MIPC is if you have a problem, talk to staff. So, I told Bill Weideman about Butch Mason. I told my boss, the Priest, about Butch Mason. I told the Psychologist in our group therapy about Butch Mason. I told everyone who would listen. Apparently, someone talked to him because one day, as I arrived at work, Butch came into my clerk’s office behind me. Understand, I had told Fr. Feltman about my problems with Butch, but I could tell he didn’t entirely believe me. Not knowing that Fr. Feltman was in his office next to mine, Mason started yelling who did I think I am, and telling me how he was going to get me. Fr. Feltman heard Mason’s threats and came into my office and told Mason he had no business in the chapel and he should get out. Fr. Feltman then turned to me and apologized for not believing me. This pissed Mason off and he told Fr. Feltman this was none of his business and to go back to his office. Harold Feltman was 6’3” and 220 pounds and only in his 50’s. I was stunned when Fr. Feltman yanked off his clerical collar and threw it on my desk and told Mason to go into his office so they could “talk.” Well, it was obvious from Fr. Feltman’s furious face that he didn’t want to “talk.” Mason turned and headed for the door, with Fr. Feltman hollering after him that he was no longer welcome in the chapel. Mason never came back to the chapel as long as I was there.
Things didn’t stay peaceful for long. After a couple of months, I was placed back in segregation and again interviewed by the State Police regarding a serious assault. What happened was that a Hispanic brother asked me to accompany him to the yard because he had business to take care of, which meant he was going to hurt someone. This guy could take care of himself, so I figured I would stand around and watch. We approached six white guys sitting in a circle and my buddy told one of them he wanted the money the white guy owed him by morning. The white guy must have felt brave because he had his five buddies there, all in motorcycle jackets and wearing bandanas, and they had full pop cans nearby to use as weapons. I went into alert mode. Then my buddy punched the white guy in the face and one of the other white guys reached for a pop can. I went down on one knee and put the white guy reaching for the pop can in choke hold and said, “What is it your thinking about doing?” He didn’t struggle so I didn’t choke him out. My buddy said let’s go and I let the white guy go and we left. There was no retaliation, the money was paid, and the thing was over.
A couple of days later, my buddy and I and a guy named Chief, who hated whites and loved violence, decided to work out in the weight room. Chief was an excellent boxer who had grown up with two older brothers who were also boxers who had used Chief as a punching bag, causing Chief to learn fast how to box. When we got to the weight room I noticed a guy not much bigger than me bench press more weight than I ever saw before. I didn’t know the guy, and he didn’t know me, but I stopped to watch him. When he noticed, me he said, “What the hell are you looking at?” I looked at my buddies and they looked at me and I shook my head ‘no’, meaning they should keep still. Another guy, working out with the bench presser, whispered, “Don’t do that, that’s Guerrero.” But instead the bench presser decided to go Bogart with, “I don’t give a damn who he is, if he wants trouble he can get it.”
I was relaxed but my buddies weren’t and they stepped toward the bench presser. I waved them off but stepped toward the guy and said, “What did you just say” and punched him in the face. I backed away to let my buddy and Chief at him and they beat the crap out of him. Unfortunately, none of us realized that when I hit him he fell backward into a weight rack and one of the support pipes pierced the back of his head. One of my buddies picked up a ten-pound weight and slapped him across the side of his head, peeling the skin off his head. I knew the old saying, “I’ll split your head back to the white meat,” but until then I had never seen it done. My other buddy, not wanting to be out-done, picked up a twenty-five-pound weight and slammed it against the guy’s chest so hard that we could hear his ribs break. I stopped them from continuing with, “Your gonna kill him!” and we left the area heading toward the yard, which was due to open momentarily.
My buddies said they were going to go to the yard and I decided to return to my cell block. I threw my bloody leather gloves in the trash and entered my block. There was still five minutes before the block could go to evening yard; the only reason I was out of my cell was because I had that detail to go to the weight room. A new hire Corrections Officer was on duty and I told him I wasn’t going to the yard and wanted to stay in my cell. He took me off the yard roster. About two hours later five officers, including the new block officer, came to my cell and said I was going to the hole. I asked why and they said because of what happened in the weight room. I asked them when did it happen and they said after yard was open. The new block officer said I couldn’t be involved because I was in my cell and didn’t go out to yard. The other officers didn’t pay attention to the block officer and told him to go away and they were taking me to the hole. I saw an opening and said to the new block officer, “They won’t listen to you because you are new and because you’re black and they’re all white.” The block officer then said he knew it wasn’t me because I was in my cell, and that he was going to talk to the Assistant Deputy Warden. The Assistant Deputy Warden was also black, so I felt I had planted a seed that might pay off for me.
Per policy, when you’re thrown in segregation you are entitled to a hearing within four working days. Five days passed, then six, and finally eleven days and still no hearing. I found out that the guy we assaulted had been placed in an induced coma because his brain was swelling, and that until he came out of the coma and could identify his attackers there would be no hearing. Then I got two breaks: The inmate nurse, a guy named Junior, assigned to make rounds in segregation was Hispanic. I told Junior that when the assaulted guy returned he (Junior) should tell him it is in his best interest to say his attackers were black. And that’s exactly what the returning prisoner did. Finally, I got my hearing and my second break. The new block officer had submitted written statement saying I was in my cell at the time of the attack, and the black Assistant Deputy Warden was the man holding the hearing.
Twenty prisoners had submitted statements saying I was the one who attacked the victim. However, since a staff statement carries more weight than any number of prisoner statement, and because the victim said I was not the one who attacked him, I was found not guilty.
I had been at MR about 16 months and managed to remain infraction free when a recently arrived Mexican was threatened by a group of black prisoners in the yard. I was among thirty prisoners involved in a fight in the yard; only two prisoners were placed in segregation and unfortunately, I was one of them. I didn’t receive an infraction, but the powers that be decided I should be transferred to Marquette Branch Prison. I had just turned twenty years-old and the Director of the MDOC needed to sign off on my transfer, since Marquette was only supposed to house prisoners over twenty-five. MR authorities convinced the Director that my ability to manipulate and control other prisoners made me a threat to MR security.
Once again, I rode the bus across the Mackinaw Bridge: this time I was relaxed and thinking of the new adventure awaiting me behind the walls of Marquette. I thought about the monster convicts I had met while at MIPC, many of whom had come from Marquette. I knew doing time there would be hard, but I knew I could make it!