Deception and propaganda is an every day theme in prison life. Some utilize it to disguise their fears and insecurities, to create a façade of fearlessness in order to keep the wolves reconsidering their initial intentions or to brainwash a mass of individuals with a persuasive lie.
Elmira Correctional Facility, New York State, January 2009: My cell door opens around 7:00 a.m. I am the company porter [the delivery man for all inmates in a row or floor of cells] and I am supposed to get up and hand out hot water to those who want it. Normally, you’ll walk up and down the company and look for the cells with buckets in front of their cell doors. I fill them without disturbing the inmate with questions so early in the morning. Some are still asleep. Others are just outright miserable about prison life, you have to be careful with them because they are unpredictably dangerous!
This morning in particular, I feel the tension in the air and my senses are telling me to be extra cautious. Something is brewing and I feel it in the pit of my stomach. Last night we (the Latin Kings) had a violent altercation with a few members of the Blood gang during gym recreation.
Nene, Crazy Horse and I were sitting on the benches when we notice four dudes approaching. They’re acting nonchalant, but my gut feeling is telling me otherwise.
They reach the benches and proceed to sit right behind us and take out a deck of cards. I turn to Nene and tell him “I don’t like this, let’s move somewhere else, I don’t like these dudes behind me!” But Nene is stubborn and he doesn’t like to show any signs of weakness.
“Fuck them! We stay! Are you strapped?” he asks me. (Meaning do I have a weapon on me.)
I say, “Yeah, but it is not out.” (Meaning, the weapon a #14 scalpel is still wrapped in plastic within my rectum.)
I tell Nene I’m going to the bathroom to take it out. Either the dudes behind us understand Spanish or they sensed that we were suspicious of them. I don’t know which. All I know is when I got off the benches and took a few steps towards the bathroom, I heard the ruffle of fast steps behind me.
I immediately turned around and saw that one of the dudes had Crazy Horse in a headlock and another was making slashing motions on his face. When I saw the blood on Crazy Horse, I realized that he was getting cut. Nene reacted immediately by jumping off of the benches and punching the guy who had Crazy Horse in a headlock. He hit him so hard on the side of his face that the guy fell unconscious to the floor.
Crazy Horse lost his mind because he started stomping the unconscious guy’s head on the floor.
I reacted by going after the guy – we punched, kicked and stomped on him. We didn’t want to give him a chance to be able to use the weapon again. When I looked back to where Crazy Horse was at, I spotted him going after the other 2 individuals who were still sitting on the benches. Crazy Horse just started raining blows on the both of them. Blood was all over Crazy Horse’s face, the floor, benches and on the dudes that he was raining down blows on!
When the response team entered the gym, blood is what caught their attention. They automatically headed in Crazy Horse’s direction and, only because of that, Nene and me were able to slip away and blend in with all the other inmates that were leaning on the wall.
The response team surrounded Crazy Horse and the other two guys, screaming at them to drop the weapon. I guess they thought Crazy Horse was stabbing the guys he was fighting with because of all the blood.
“Drop the weapon and lie on the ground!” they kept yelling.
Crazy Horse stopped and raised his hands to show them he didn’t have a weapon.
“Get on the fucking ground!”
When blood is part of an altercation, Correctional Officers don’t like subduing an inmate, so they yell more and more. The response team is now going around hoping to spot the others that were involved, but they are not sure, so me and NeNe are playing it cool, nervous of course, but we’ve been through this before. We know exactly what to do and not to do. They continue to visually sweep the floor trying to spot my weapons. When they’re satisfied, they put on latex gloves and make their way towards the injured inmates lying on the floor, who are handcuffed and individually escorted to the infirmary by two officers each.
I turn to NeNe and whisper, “What the fuck was that about?”
Nene says that he’s not sure but has an idea. NeNe wants me to be on point [lookout] because they (Bloods) might try something again. Everybody in the gym is now confused and nervous, because nobody was aware that this shit was going to happen. I’m confused myself, because of the confusion in several Blood members’ faces. But I tell myself, how could they not know what was going to happen, after all them dudes were Blood members, unless a monkey wrench was thrown into the game? Something is not right and I share my thoughts with NeNe – and he says the same thing.
The gym is now split into 2 groups; on the right side are all black inmates and on the left all Spanish – and no one is sitting down on the benches. Both sides are staring down each other. Not good! The officers know this is bad, because of the silence. They must have called it in, because all of a sudden reinforcements enter the gym and they line up right at the center of both groups. The gym is closed.
“Stay where you’re at and don’t move!” a Sergeant yelled out.
I wondered to myself how the go-back was going to be conducted, because every inmate knows that “go-backs” are the modern-day medieval goulets [?] and every other inmate in the gym was fretting the same thing. But to every body’s relief, the Sgt. instructed his officers to run them as they stood, but 5 at a time for safety purposes. A 10-minute process was turned into an hour process. We weren’t allowed to confabulate with each other, not even when we made it back to the cellblocks. We ended up separated and taken to our respective companies.
C-Block has 8 companies [8 rows of cell blocks, numbered by floor level.] I resided on 5-Company, [the fifth floor] NeNe on 6-Company. Once the gym was emptied and all the inmates secured in their cells, the yelling from company to company began — dudes trying to gather information as to what took place. The gang members are speaking in codes (some of which we’re able to decipher) and it seems like the majority of them have absolutely no idea of what just happened.
I’m listening carefully to all the different voices, looking for verbal smoke screens, but I can’t seem to spot any. I’m trying to think everything through rationally because I understand how shit works around here, the dangerous games some play just to cause a schism between others. With this in mind and with a grain of salt, I accept the claim of ignorance in the voices. It kind of makes sense to me, because had the majority of the Blood members had any acknowledgement of what was suppose to happen, they would’ve been ready and not been taken by surprise. Then it dawns on me. They went specifically for “Crazy Horse” – they made no attempts towards NeNe, nor myself – so they wanted Crazy Horse!
A few weeks prior to this happening, Crazy Horse was visited by his mother and while on the visiting floor, a girl who was visiting another inmate called Hots – a high-ranking member of his own “blood set” – engaged Crazy Horse’s mother in conversation, mostly about her son. The girl wanted to know if Crazy Horse had a girlfriend. The girl ended the conversation by asking Crazy Horse’s mother for her son’s contact information (name and ID #) so she could mail him an introduction letter as well as a picture of herself.
Crazy Horse’s mother did as the girl requested. Three days later, Crazy Horse receives a letter with a photo from the girl. When he shows the picture to Nene, Nene recognizes her and tells Crazy Horse who she is – “Hot’s Wife!” NeNe tells Crazy Horse to expose her to Hots because this is only going to bring problems between the “Nation” and the Bloods. Crazy Horse says, “ Yeah, you’re right. I’m going to holler at Hots today in the field house (recreation area).”
Later that afternoon when recreation was called, we entered the field house and proceeded to the Latin Kings court and informed the other brothers about our intentions, so we basically told them to be on point, because in prison one never knows how another is going to react when confronted with such information.
Out of respect, one never enters another group’s court [a group or gang’s self-designated area] without first being granted permission. There’s always an invisible line where you stop and holler, “What’s good? Can I talk to you for a minute?” That’s exactly what Crazy Horse did and said when he got to the Blood’s court. This is nothing out of the ordinary, because it’s done all the time, but normally it’s about business. Hots didn’t come out of the court, we understood that it was because of security reasons. We do the same when an outsider wants to speak to one of our hierarchies. Instead, Hots waves to Crazy Horse directing for him to come inside.
Once in the court they spend about 30 minutes speaking to each other. From a respectable distance, NeNe and me paid close attention to their interaction. Hots didn’t seem upset, nor Crazy Horse defensive, but looks are always deceptive in this place. The psychology is like Homer, or rather Odysseus.
When Crazy Horse finally exited the court, he seemed unafraid and kind of relieved. He explained the whole interaction, how Hots commended him for his honesty, how Hots said not many dudes would’ve done what Crazy Horse did, and how Hots respected him for it. According to Crazy Horse, Hots stated that he wasn’t upset at him because it wasn’t his fault – it was the bitch’s! She stepped out of line and she was going to feel his wrath!
The next morning, as I continue going up and down the company filling up buckets with hot water, I’m reflecting on all that has transpired within the last month and I’m pretty sure that Hots was responsible for last night. Maybe he didn’t like Crazy Horse? Maybe he thought Crazy Horse was mocking him indirectly? Either way, he decided to shed Crazy Horse’s blood and get him out of circulation.
When I get down to 19 cell, a Blood member from a different set or hood says to me, “Let me holler at you for a minute.”
I greeted him back and asked, “What’s good?”
S.L. starts off by saying “That shit last night was fucked up and it had nothing to do with my hood. Them niggas Hots and Roam put that shit in motion to get at Crazy Horse because Hots says Crazy Horse owed him plot money and he was playing games with the payment.”
“That’s bullshit” I tell S.L. “Crazy don’t owe that nigga Hots shit!”
“I know, believe me I’m hip,” S.L. says. “Them Niggas are trying to turn this shit into something else, like the Kings got at the homies. He is trying to spin it in order to get support from the other hoods. The little homies that are riding with him were given orders last night to pop off on all Latin Kings this morning as soon as the cell doors opened”.
I asked S.L. if he was supporting Hot’s call.
“No!” He answered, “But Nem, keep this between us.”
I assure S.L. that I will and proceed, walking towards the front of the company. I have to warn the brothers down on 3-company and 1-company, but as I’m making my way to the front, I notice that the inmate in 1 cell is finishing with the dudes from upstairs 7-company. I noticed he pulled a net bag into his cell and in the net bag I saw a flat wrapping which in my experience could only be a weapon. I know that the inmate in 1 cell is also Blood — and Hots and Roam both reside on 7-company, so I can only assume that they are ordering the young kid to get at me. I call down to one of the bros and explain the situation and to make sure that he informs all the lions (Latin Kings).
When I’m done speaking to the lion, I walk down to the kid in 1 cell, I immediately noticed that he was packing up all his property, so my assumption was correct.
When I greeted the kid he seemed nervous, so I just came out and told him “Listen, I know what’s going on. I know your Big Homie ordered you to get at me, but I’m gonna tell you this one time, I don’t want to hurt you. But if you force my hand, I will hurt you bad! I know they sent you down a weapon and if you come at me with it you better be sure and know how to use it, because if I take it from you, you’re dead!”
I could tell that kid didn’t really want any problems, that he was basically being forced to act. So I tried to scare him with an aggressive stand and the possibility of him losing his life.
“Think about it,” I told him, as I walked away from the front of his cell. I walked a few steps to the front gate where Officer Murphy was waiting for me with a big plastic garbage bag full of weekly supplies – toilet paper, toothpaste, soaps and sometimes toothbrushes. Every Saturday, the company porters are in charge of distributing these supplies to all inmates who are in need of it.
As Officer Murphy is opening the gate to hand me the supply bag, he whispers to me “What happened last night? I know Crazy Horse was one of yours and them other dudes were all Bloods. What now? Are you guys going to retaliate?”
I answer Murphy, “I don’t know what’s gonna happen, we aren’t 100% sure of the situation”.
“Well” Murphy continues, “I know this much, every action can expect an equal or a more extreme reaction back. I’ve been in Corrections for a very long time and it’s the redundancy you can always bet on! Be careful and watch your back!”
Murphy was different from all the other officers. He always treated me and others with respect and not with the pseudo respect you’d get from other officers. His conversations with me were never based on fear, judgment, discriminations or preconceived notions. I’d often joke with him, “You’re too clean to be working in this nefarious place.” In retrospect, Murphy, was an anachronism!
Over Murphy’s walkie talkie, I hear “C-Block start running your chow!” [start taking the inmates to the cafeteria] One and Two company are the first to be let out. A few minutes later, I hear loud shouts of “break it up, break it up”.
Over the walkie-talkie, I hear “We have a 6-man altercation in C- Block, 1-Company flats!” The administration must’ve been anticipating this because over 50 officers entered the Block to quell the altercation. Control is restored on the flats [ground floor] and the call goes out to resume running the companies. 3 and 4-company are next.
But as soon as they enter the mess hall, a 3-man altercation breaks out. Some inmates are throwing trays at each other. I hear all the commotion and decide to prepare myself because my company is next on the line and I don’t want to get caught off guard. I grab the supplies bag and place it right in front of my cell door #14 and wait till the cell doors are opened. When they are finally opened, I grab a tight grip on the bulky bag.
As soon as 1-cell is opened, the young kid runs out towards me. The officers immediately notice and shout for him to stop. But the kid keeps running towards me. I guess that because of the kid’s actions, no other cells were opened. I was good with that because it meant that I’d only have to concentrate on one dude.
I notice that in kid’s hand he’s gripping a sharp piece of fiberglass. When he gets about 2 feet from me, I swing the supply bag really hard towards his rising hand which holds the weapon. The impact forces the weapon out of his grip and sent him flying a couple feet backwards. He hits the floor hard. I react quickly because he wasn’t coming off of that floor. I stomped and kicked him until he wasn’t moving any more.
Behind me I heard Officer Murphy’s voice telling me to stop, “That’s enough Martinez. Come on, just relax and put your hands flat on the gate.”
I hear another officer shout, “We have a weapon here,” and cuffs are placed on me. And as soon as they go to put cuffs on the kid, he starts assaulting one of the officers. But he doesn’t get far, because now he has 4 C.O.s [Correctional Officers] raining sticks on his head. The kid passes out from the blows. I hear Sgt. Smith shout “lock it down.” No other companies are let out. The facility is officially locked down. [everyone must stay in their cells, with loss of privileges.]
I was escorted to the infirmary and checked out for any injuries, which I’d none. Afterwards I was taken to an office where Capt. Noeth was waiting for me.
“Sit the fuck down,” he says. “Now what the fuck is going on? Is there a gang war between Kings and Bloods? And don’t give me that convict bullshit that you don’t know, because I happen to know that you are ‘Nemesis’ – part of the security team within the Kings. I also know Crazy Horse personally. We dealt with each other in Coxsackie Correctional. He was one of my boys, so talk with me and I promise to help you and keep you safe.”
I tell Capt. Noeth “with all due respect sir, I’m not an imbecile, so please don’t speak to me like one. You and I know that you can’t protect me from anything in this place, so don’t make me promises that you know deep down are false. But I understand where you’re coming from and to answer your question, this isn’t a prison gangs’ war, as you can see, it’s only happening in C-block and no other blocks. This is just some asshole playing Machiavellian games of deception. But I can’t tell you who it is. When his people find out the truth – that he basically deceived them all – believe me, they will deal with him accordingly.”
Capt. Noeth then tells me, “I spoke to Crazy Horse in the SHU [Special Housing Unit, aka solitary confinement] and he believes this all stems from a girl, Hot’s wife.”
Later on that night, an investigator from Albany, I guess they were I.G’s come to interview a bunch of us, asking the same questions and threatening me some more. I eventually got keep locked [forced to remain in cell all day with loss of privileges] and given an infraction — with a completely different story.
Saul Martinez is serving 17 years in New York for 1st degree robbery.
We send weekly comments to our writers, but if you’d like to contact this author directly, please write to:
Saul Martinez # 07A4009
Great Meadows Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 51
Comstock, NY 12821-0051