Tuesday, August 30, 2016
They sit segregated by race and by choice. It's the way things go in prison, this prison, anyway. This prison, a state prison in Arizona, is an old-school punish-'em-til-they-break, just-keep-the fights-from-spreading-outside-the-yard prison. Education is in short supply. The food is bad. Time outside the cell is short, one hour of rec per day. In a place like this, you need your homies for protection, and you need to represent when your card is called. If that means taking someone out, a stoolie say, then you do it. Or you risk the ire of your tribe, the shot callers, the rules of the game and the requirements for membership in your tribe. Autonomy is a quaint abstraction from some other life, some other world. There is no opting out without consequences that hurt for a long time. Tribes feed on fear, on scarcity, on absence of options, on differences, on turf lost or gained. Arizona law makers like it that way. The tribes run the yards, like packs of sharks. But that is outside, for a few hours anyway. Right now we read a poem about work, about finding one's way through the labyrinth that life presents, something that everyone, no matter the tribe, has to figure out. In this we have some common ground. We look for the words that might describe that. They are elusive, but we join together in the hunt.