Inside corrections, guys all seem to have their hustle. Some create specialty cards of all types, for birthdays, anniversaries or just thinking of you type. They sell them for flags, cigarettes, food or anything they can. Others make things out of whatever they get their hands on – from figurines to trinkets, many of which are illegal by the institution’s rules. Some make tattoo guns out of old radios or electric clippers and to do their trade. Some give haircuts. Some provide a service, from homework assistance, game tutoring or other services I don’t want to mention. Some get extra food from the mess hall and come around selling it to the highest bidder.
It was these latter guys with whom I developed a continual relationship. Bananas or other fruit on the rare occasions they would have them were one of my best buys. As were boiled eggs. This one guy from New York City would bring around a five gallon pail filled at least a third of the way with them. I wondered how guys could get them out of the mess hall, and I learned in this facility the civilians just looked the other way as long as the guys do their jobs. I know one ingenious inmate who dons a white T-shirt, as the kitchen crew is dressed all in white, stands at the end of the line giving out silverware, and brings back extra food to barter.
Now, again, we have no money to deal with directly, so this is where flags, cigarettes or other food comes into play. I always traded away my cold cuts, burgers (generally made of soy), hot dogs and things of that type for other food. Problem was because these traders and hustlers generally want pay on the barrel head – right away – I have to use those golden cigarettes from the package my sister-in -law brought or stamps purchased from commissary. Unfortunately you cannot get flags sent in from the outside, I’m not really sure why. And you can only buy a certain amount in your commissary buy twice a month.
I even heard about guys who would do “dirty deeds” for a price. Arthur, who had been down over 25 years had seen it all by his own admission. Guys cutting someone for another guy, getting in a fight with someone so both would go to the box, setting someone’s bed on fire or other such destruction. All in the name of getting paid in some way. Want someone out of your dorm? Have a score to settle for some real or perceived slight? There were inmates who could arrange it for a price. Sometimes deeds were done simply to create the old diversion while some other devious deed was being done so the officers were busy corralling the guilty. It was amazing. Things I never even thought of or would consider took place right under my nose almost on a daily basis. No wonder the sergeant at work had cautioned me.
I even heard of guys willing to perform sexual acts as a trade, something I found interesting yet repulsive at the same time. Guess some guys put no limit of what they would do for money, cigarettes or other things. When you have no basis for truth or value, it is easier to give everything up for something else.
I pondered what I would do to make extra money or get other things. Would I compromise my new found faith for the sake of an apple or orange? Could I use my religion as a cover as some seemed to do, citing Biblical verses while acting anything but Biblical. I felt I was grounded in my budding relationship with Jesus and wanted Him to lead me as my new mantra from Proverbs 3:5-6 cited: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path”. That was my desire as I made new and improved inside corrections which were required.