Like thousands of other inmates across the nation, I had a job. I worked in the kitchen.

In the stock room area, out of sight in the back of the kitchen, my partner Zeke and I were joined by a few other inmates, just lounging and goofing around. Zeke is the kind of guy that always has something either funny or unimaginably ridiculous to say.

He says, “I wonder if we can fit in that little hole and crawl.”

I interrupted, “No. We ain’t goin’ nowhere, besides they got bars on that anyways.”

Zeke responded, “The canteen stupid, we can get in the canteen.”

Now we understood. Everyone eyed the ventilation system. I could hear their minds grinding the equation. Their eyes traced the path, their heads moving in unison like watching Jimmie Johnson speed past the finish line.

Before anyone spoke a word, I had figured it out. Excited, the plan was formulated. My job was to gather intel on the two cameras facing the door of the canteen. I did a quick Q & A with a brother who once worked inside. I was sure the plan would work. We all agreed to assume the cameras were indeed recording.

The following weekend presented an opportunity of a lifetime. We found out the most gullible, ditzy CO [Corrections Officer] ever would be working alone. It was too hard to resist. What crook wouldn’t relish such a golden opportunity?

On the appointed weekend, we gathered the few materials we would need. The final thing we needed — a flashlight — came from our gullible captor for the day – right after she fell for the best compliment we could conjure up. Next, we tucked our pant legs into our socks and twisted saran wrap around our arms, wrist to elbows, making us look like a couple of bug exterminators.

Lookout men, replacements, materials – all checked. The last thing we needed was to see if my big ass would fit into a ventilation duct. Zeke is tall and skinny, built like a basketball post, not quite a basketball player. I’m the opposite, with wide shoulders, broad back, and let me add, a tad bit of muscle. Climbing onto a stack of canned applesauce and sliced peaches wasn’t exactly comforting or motivating. To say I was worried may be a slight understatement.

Zeke was first. I stood on the stack of canned goods to assure that he didn’t kill himself climbing into the service door. Zeke got half his body in, his ass literally in my face, squirming and wriggling and … Zeke farts right in my face. I punched him on the backs of his legs and butt maybe 5 or 6 times as he squirmed, wriggled and laughed. I could hear a muffled apology in between my laughs, “My bad,” he said.

Zeke was finally in. I heard him crawling along and I stuck my head in to see what it’s like in there. After hearing Zeke’s reply, I told him to commence kicking out the vent.  Zeke did everything he was supposed to do.

Getting a boost from one of the lookouts, I didn’t have much trouble getting into the vent. I crawled like a marine behind enemy lines squeezing out the duct and climbing down onto a table, which was under the vent, to join Zeke. We immediately covered our faces with T-shirts to avoid identification and proceeded toward the canteen warehouse.

The door was locked so I grabbed the fire extinguisher and banged the corner of it against the glass window of the door. The fire extinguisher burst open. Suddenly a gush of yellow smoke shot out the bottom of the extinguisher. Zeke and I almost panicked. “Lets go Brah,” Zeke was screaming while moving back towards the way that we had come.

I jumped back trying to shield my nose and mouth from the toxic dust. “Zeke hold up, don’t go!” I begged. With that I picked the fire extinguisher back up and shattered the glass in one hit.

We robbed the prison canteen blind. We took stamps, cigarettes (new ports and tops) headphones (Sony) and Casio wristwatches; we took over four trips in a 3-day span (Fri, Sat, Sun). We all knew Monday would be troublesome. We stashed away the booty in the stock room, busting boxes of cereal and setting up canned goods loaded with stolen merchandise.

Monday came and we were busted.

It wasn’t funny then, but now it is, when I think we were caught on camera. I can imagine seeing us dressed up like bug exterminators jumping and hollering from the fire extinguisher explosion. Apparently the T-shirts covering our faces moved just enough to get a good shot of us.

We went to the hole [solitary confinement], but the guys that helped us sent us more than our fair share of cigarettes and stamps while we were there. This kind of solidarity and unity is truly a rarity and, if we were always thick as thieves in prison, survival would be much easier.

Jason Snipes #812841

Pasquotank CI

527 Commerce Drive

Elizabeth City, NC 27906