If you woke in the middle of the night and heard your neighbor being robbed, you could hear that he was about to be stabbed, and anticipated that he would soon be screaming… would you put in earplugs and roll back to sleep?
That’s what I did one night last month.
It’s the screaming that’s the unnerving part of any stabbing. Not the struggling. Not the blood. Not the wounds. Always, it’s the screaming. I was tired, and I didn’t want to hear it, so I put in construction-grade earplugs, turned the radio up loud, and put on headphones over the earplugs. That drowns out almost everything.
The worst screaming I’ve heard was the guy in the G-Cellhouse recreation cage in May 2011. Two guys on lock-up had been arguing. With bars and multiple locked doors between them, and almost no prospect of ever being in physical contact, one of them was especially bold and egregious in his taunts to the other. The term for it in segregation units is “selling out behind the bars.” The offended person often desires an opportunity to retaliate.
The little guy inconspicuously took a long piece of steel with him when he was escorted in handcuffs to the outdoor cage that day. By luck, he was placed in a cage right next to the smart-mouth. The 10’ by 20’ cage was made of chain-link fencing, and it could be pulled away several inches from the frame. Once the guard left, the little guy started wiggling through a gap in the wire, like a wood weasel burgling a chicken coop.
Smart-mouth was expecting a fist-fight and allowed the weasel to wriggle into his recreation cage. C’mon, punk-ass bitch, let’s get it on! Then the little weasel got all the way through and flashed his shank, a nine-inch ice-pick-type weapon — and smart- mouth’s demeanor suddenly changed.
The struggle preceding the sound of stabbing was without words, shouts or screams – just the squeak of sneakers on concrete, the hard breathing of the two combatants, and relative silence from the rest of us, some dozen spectators in our own rec cages.
It wasn’t until that one particular microsecond, when the victim realized that the blade was on its way to his body and wouldn’t be deflected or avoided, that he let out a scream in anticipation of the shank hitting its mark.
It was a hearty scream, both lungs maximizing their output as his torso braced for impact. And the pitch ~ it’s almost a joke, but the longer the shank, the higher the octave of the scream. A nine-incher commands a note four octaves up the scale, an operatic sopranino – fortissimo, sostenuto. Loud and sustained. You’ll hear few screams like it during your prison stay, hopefully never emanating from yourself.
The utility of the scream is debatable. As a primeval survival mechanism, the scream may attract assistance or frighten off the attacker – but I’ve never seen it effectively do either. If anything, attackers seem more emboldened, more determined to keep stabbing until silence is attained. And the only persons who come running to assist invariably stop, take in the scene, and wait for the violence to play out. (Immediately grabbing a knife-wielding assailant is nobody’s first option.)
Once smart-mouth’s screaming started it continued for the duration of the stabbing. Weasel got in nine puncture wounds altogether, five in the front, four in the back, most of them lower torso, none near the heart. By then smart-mouth was on his back, thrusting the assailant away by kicking his legs. Sometime, between the first stab and the ninth, guys in surrounding cages had started in, siding with the weasel.
Run your mouth now, mother-fucker!
Yeah! Ya got what ya had comingI
Who’s the punk-ass bitch, now?! Bleed out and die, bitchI
Both smart-mouth and the weasel were exhausted, and the guards heard the commotion and came trotting down the walk, keys jangling. Seeing the shank, one officer made the radio call, “10-10 with weapons.” The other officer told the little guy to drop the weapon and cuff up. Weasel dropped the shank outside the cage door, turned around, slipped his hands out the door slot, and allowed himself to get handcuffed. Smart-mouth never moved.
Another radio call, “Signal 3000,” alerted medical, and they came running with a stretcher. Smart-mouth was loaded on and whisked away, and then we were all returned to our cells, some grumbling that they didn’t get their full hour of rec time.
Next day, I talked to the officer who had escorted the victim to medical. The prisoner had been lying on the table, attended by the weekend nurse. The bleeding wouldn’t stop, and at one point the victim exclaimed, “I’m dyingI”
The nurse replied, “It’s not that bad. You’re gonna be alright.”
“No! I’m dyingI Ya gotta get me to the hospitalI”
After forty minutes, with the bleeding still unstaunched and the patient getting gray, medical personnel decided maybe it would be best to get this guy to an outside hospital after all.
According to the official record, he died at the prison infirmary.
So when I heard the robbery going on in the bunk next to me, forgive my callousness or apathy, but I just did not want to witness anything. That my neighbor would get robbed was a certainty, no mystery as to that outcome. He was weaker than any of the three larger men who had him backed into his cul-de-sac between the double bunks. He had a large bag of dope, hidden somewhere, and he was certain to reveal where, once he saw the shank held by robber number three.
“Where it at? Where it at?” The lead robber was persistent in extracting this and only this bit of information, while the other two provided the force that was about to be used if my neighbor refused to cooperate.
“Where it at? I know you got it here somewhere, now, where it at?”
Robber number three held back, but insistent: “Fuck that shit, let me stick that nigga…”
“Where it at? Don’t make me tarn this nigga loose on you. Now, where it at?”
I listened to a few rounds of that, and reached for the earplugs. Then I reached for my headphones. Then I cranked up the volume. If they kill this kid, I’ve got plausible deniability. I didn’t see nuthin.
I was asleep again within a minute.
The next morning my neighbor was only sporting a black eye. I learned that his dope was gone, his cell phone too. He hadn’t been stabbed, but it was close.
At brief moments throughout the day, and over the next few days, feeling conflicted over the fact that I had done nothing at all, I would ask myself, “What of kind of human being have I become?”
Primary Source: Ty Evans, #158293, at Pendleton Correctional Facility, 2/3/2006-present. Stabbing incident in G-Cellhouse occurred on May 29, 2011. Robbery in O-Dorm occurred April 4, 2015.
Ty Evans in serving a 71-year sentence in Indiana, 40-years for Evans’s attempted murder conviction, enhanced by a 30-year sentence for an habitual offender finding and a one-year sentence for resisting law enforcement conviction, to be served consecutively, for an aggregate sentence of seventy-one years.
If you’d like to contact Ty directly, please write to:
Ty Evans #158293
1 Park Row
Michigan City, IN