Sex Offender Alert
Twenty minutes later the vestibule door rattled outside again. The tower guard walked to the window overlooking the yard and looked down. He nodded his head and the other tower guard at the podium opened the vestibule. It shrieked and rattled open.
Security Escort Heart was the first through the tunnel. Behind him was his partner Ligazarro. They walked to the podium and talked to an unhappy Gomez.
Everyone heard Gomez yell, “This is my F###ing building!”
I remembered how Heart had escorted us from the bus to the building. He had been talkative and seemed to take a liking to me. I had asked him about the riot between the White inmates and the Mexican inmates that made the news over six months ago. He’d explained that a White inmate had run up a $1000 heroin debt and then stabbed the Mexican dope man in the neck. Within a month, after the initial lockdown was over, over 100 Mexicans swarmed about 20 White inmates in a yard riot. The Whites took a massive beating and almost all were knocked unconscious with 5 minutes of unhindered violence that sent 16 of them on stretchers to the hospital.
Since we arrived in the building we found out that a 50-year-old White inmate by the name of Mark Grisham worked in the program office and got inside information from Heart for the two Mexican Mobsters on the yard, Sano and Boxer. We told Mark we were taking over the yard for the White inmates and talked him into moving us as close to the two influential Mexicans as possible. He’d succeeded with Heart’s help.
Heart wasn’t arguing with Gomez. He wasn’t even raising his voice. Ligazarro stood next to him leaning on the podium and it didn’t look like he liked Gomez. He leaned back and stepped away in irritation and looked at one of the tower guards holding a gun out the portal pointed at the ground.
He nodded his head to the tower guard and walked to our cell. Heart followed him.
Ligazzaro opened the cell door and Heart stepped almost into our cell. He said, “BJ and Damon, you ready to go meet your new neighbors?”
Heart looked like a Mexican version of me. He had short brown hair combed back over expressive eyes that tore into you. He wasn’t shy and when he smiled his dimpled cheeks made him look friendly. But his strong jaw, with a scar down the middle, similar to mine, told a different story. I pegged him for a borderline criminal, or at minimum, a drug user and someone who was more comfortable around gangsters.
I nodded my head and said, “Thanks for making it happen.”
He said, “No problem. Strip down. I have to follow protocol and search you.”
I took off my clothes and handed them to him and Ligazzaro until I was naked.
Heart and Ligazzaro felt the clothes for all the spots inmates sewed stash spots and then studied the shoes.
Done with the task, Heart dropped the clothes on top of the shoes and said, “Arms up, open your mouth and stick you tongue out, lift up your nuts… Okay, turn around. Lift each foot and wiggle your toes. Alright, bend over and squat and cough three times.”
I followed all the instructions and was glad that he didn’t make me grab my ass cheeks to open them. He had a better style than that and this was mostly for show. I grabbed my clothes and shoes and got behind Damon while he went through the motions.
After Damon was done, Heart pulled him out of the cell and walked him ten feet to a bench.
Ligazzaro stared at me and said, “BJ, back out of the cell, we have to follow protocol.”
I backed out of the cell and felt Ligazzaro’s hand grab my shoulder and turn me. We were following Heart and Damon to the benches.
Damon was already kneeling uncomfortably on one of the benches. Heart lifted a pile of chains on the ground and wrapped Damon’s legs together at the ankles. He pulled Damon off the bench and wrapped some more chains around his waist and locked his wrists to each side.
I went through the same process and we were steered toward the vestibule door. I looked at the gun tower above to avoid Gomez. There was a block gun pointed at me. The Mexican prison guard holding it was smiling. He said, “You pissed off Gomez. You better avoid buildings three and four where his friends work the towers.
We were on the border of Mexico and nothing was stopping a Wild West scenario from unfolding. The cards we were dealt forced us into action.
The vestibule door weighed over 400 pounds of steel and it shrieked and rattled open. We were pushed through.
I looked up at a two-foot thick clear bulletproof window above us and saw both tower guards staring down at us. At the other end of the 20-foot long tunnel the other vestibule door rattled and erupted open. It shrieked insane noises for 5 seconds and latched into a locked position giving us 5 feet of space to walk through.
The sunlight was blinding. I closed my eyes and barely opened them. Long ago honed survival instincts forced me to look to the left of our building to get a complete study of the yard. There was nothing that way except the fenced entrance to our D-Yard. I could see C-Yard’s gated entrance 50 yards further and noted that the yard next to our yard was also an empty ghost town and still on lockdown. I turned slowly and paced the foot and half with each foot before the chains bit and held me. It was a slow pace. We weren’t in a hurry to get locked back into a cell for 24 hours of 7 days a week of slow motion lockdown.
In front of me was the asphalt concrete track that circled the yard. It was around the same width and length as a high school track. The sweltering 110-degree desert heat made me dizzy looking at the heat waves rising from it. Just inside the track on the yard there was grass and a couple of concrete tables that would hold about three to four prisoners on each side during regular yard. I knew from experience that this was where the White inmates and southern Mexicans would congregate so I asked Heart, “Is this where the riot was with the Mexicans and Whites?”
Heart nodded his head and said, “Yep. I remember how bad the White inmates got beat. We couldn’t get the Mexicans to stop stomping and kicking them. After we finally got them down, one of the White inmates regained consciousness and started trying to crawl away. He fell on his head trying to crawl and was knocked out again for hours. His face had boot prints all over it…that guy has brain damage and can barely talk now.”
I looked at Heart and wondered if he was trying to intimidate me. I said, “The Whites are lucky prison knives weren’t used.”
Heart nodded his head but didn’t say anything.
I wanted more information so I asked, “Who had the yard for the Mexicans at the time of that riot. Whoever it was had the decency to keep weapons out of it.”
Heart nodded his head and thought about it. He said, “It was hard for us to tell who was calling shots. There wasn’t a bona-fide Mexican Mobster here at the time. I think it was some one from La Puente in LA. I can’t remember his name.”
All of the sudden I realized why Heart was helping me. He wanted to be involved and in the know. It was a competition among a certain class of prison guards to know things. It gave them clout.
One foot in front of the other locked in chains was taking a long time to get anywhere. The dry heat was drenching me in perspiration. To my right was building 4. The prefabricated building was a tan dreary color except for the green vestibule door and the tinted bulletproof tower window above. A tower guard stood watching with his gun pointed at the ground near us. I asked, “Does Gomez really have gun tower friends or was he just acting?”
Heart grunted and said, “He’s serious as a heart attack. He still lives in Mexico and drives across the border everyday to work, his friends caravan with him. Stay out of building three and four.
One foot in front of the other in a shuffle step got us to the middle of the yard. There was a handball wall that was 20 feet high. After that there was a thin cement walkway that cut through the middle of the yard. At the end of it to the right was the gym. Mostly Black Inmates were standing at the window watching. I saw a couple of tattooed down Asians and asked, “How long have the Black inmates had the gym?”
I knew the answer. Ever since the Mexicans and Black inmates had their riot.
Heart said, “It’s been over six months now. The Prison Administration is thinking of trying to put Mexicans in there from another yard to see what happens.”
I grunted and didn’t say anything. It wouldn’t work. It would be an immediate riot.
Heart surprised me by changing the subject, he asked, “Do you want help with this yard?”
I didn’t know what he meant so I remained quiet.
Each shuffle step seemed to take longer waiting for one of us to talk.
Heart finally said, “Do you want to know about any skeletons in the closet?”
Now I understood. He was asking if we wanted to know about any protective custody cases. I was immediately repulsed by the thought and asked, “Is this a protective custody yard?”
Heart noticed me staring right at him and said, “Not at all but there is always a sex offender who flies beneath the radar on every yard. Do you want help uncovering those kinds of things?”
I had stopped walking and felt Damon bump into me. I started shuffle stepping forward again and thought about it. Prisoners were given paperwork from their counselor that stated every crime they had ever committed. We really didn’t need his help. But who was I to muzzle the gift horse. I said, “I wouldn’t turn down help, but I was hoping for tobacco or a cell phone to start with.”
Heart ignored me and said, “There’s a notorious child molester in three building. Think about the worst Catholic priest scenario. He has forty-four counts and is doing a life sentence. I don’t know how he made it through New Folsom and Calipatria.”
What Heart was saying was he was surprised the inmates at those Maximum Security Prisons didn’t uncover his dirty deeds and stick a spike in his neck.
I said, “You would need to give me the paperwork that proves those charges for me to do anything.”
Heart said, “That I can’t do. You have to trust me.”
I said, “It has nothing to do with trust. It has to do with how it has always been done. Paperwork is the only way.”
Heart nodded his head and said, “I’ll see what I can do. I would have to go into his Central File to get it.”
I didn’t say anything. We were getting closer to our building and I wondered if Heart was helping the Mexicans the same way.
Heart said, “You have another potential problem that just arrived. A white guy just got here who has a “Cruelty to Children” charge and a “Corporal Injury to Spouse” charge. You should be able to fish that one out on your own. He had problems at Donovan Reception Center over it on his way to this prison. It will all be in his paperwork.”
Another revelation dawned on me. The prison guards at Centinella must like being on lockdown.