BY MUSTAFA ZULU
“Pack your panties ladies!” I remember the prison guard yelling, while banging on the cell bars with his baton. “I’ve got two tickets to hell with your guys’ names on them.”
“Get your fat, greasy, low-life ass on somewhere pig!” My cellie yelled back from the bottom bunk, half asleep and still half stoned off the weed we’d smoked just a few hours before. They’re were three of us, all from D.C, charged with attempted murder for attacking a rival group with knives and nearly killing a guy.
We’d been at the federal prison, U.S.P. Terre Haute Indiana, waiting four months in their dirty “hole” for a transfer to ADX Supermax prison — the “hell” the guard was referring to, in Florence, Colorado.
We’d read an article weeks before about ADX Supermax. They dubbed it something like “The New Alcatraz from the Rockies” – a state of the art hellhole.
The prison sat on top of a cold mountain. It was essentially the end of the world, as far as I was concerned. America’s Siberia for bad asses.
During the nearly 20 years of being locked down here in ADX, I’ve had many experiences, both good and bad, some horrific. And one of those unforgettable experiences happened on the road to ADX.
Most of the time the US Marshals transfer inmates going to ADX by airplane. We had the misfortune of taking a bus from Indiana to Colorado. It must have taken us 14 hours! Imagine traveling in coach class for 14 hours in full police restraints – handcuffs attached to a belly chain, ankle-shackles and, for the highest class of maximum custody inmates, the dreaded “Black Box” – which is an extra restraint that covers the handcuffs, preventing your ability to move your wrists in any direction, removing access to the key hole. Wearing a black box for 14 hours was torture, plain and simple.
There were 40 convicts on board and 3 guards. We were locked inside a cage within the bus. The guards were stationed outside the cage: one in the rear, one in front, (both with shotguns) and the third drove. There were an additional four more pigs in a separate chase car following.
Only 7 of us were condemned to ADX, the rest were going to various security level prisons – low, medium or maximum.
About 12 hours into the trip, every bone in my body was stiff and ached. All of us “Black Box” guys’ wrists and hands were swollen. We were traveling through the darkness of the boonies somewhere in Colorado. It was so dark you couldn’t see the guy sitting next to you.
Suddenly, there was a choking sound a few rows ahead of me. Not the choking-on-a-bone sound either. It was that struggle-for-air sound every violent man on the bus recognized as someone being choked to death. Soon after, the rear guard recognized it as well.
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“Lights” the guard yelled. “Hit the fuckin’ cage lights!” When the inner lights came on, everyone could see the skinny little Mexican guy who was seated in the row directly in front of the rear guard. The little guy had managed to slip off his belly-chain, the way a woman would squeeze out of a tight dress, and he was using his belly-chain as a garrote to strangle a rival gang member.
The guards were really yelling for him to stop, the bus was still flying around some mountain. None of us moved, until the pigs threatened to shoot. In concert, 38 of us ducked down in our seats.
The little guy was locked onto his prey’s neck like a pit-bull and wasn’t about to turn him loose. The guards couldn’t get a clean shot off unless they opened the cage and entered.
Afraid that other convicts may have gotten out of their restraints, the guards barked orders and threats until the little guy decided to finally let go.
The bus kept flying around a mountain. No where to pull over, I believe, I can’t really remember. But there were now 8 of us going to hell on earth, including a convict soon to be put into his grave.
Mustafa Zulu is serving 50+ years for murder.
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