This post is in collaboration with Prison Writers

Jerry Metcalf, Michigan

Every time I watch the news footage of that cop murdering Mr. George Floyd, I cringe.

And not only because it resulted in Mr. Floyd’s death, but because — for the last twenty-five years — I’ve been ruled over by evil men and women who employ that same smug smirk of superiority here in prison. And it saddens me how that same heartless attitude has finally — and inevitably, in my opinion — snaked its way out of American prisons and into the light of day.

Men better than me have claimed this would one day happen, that almost any society can be judged by the way it treats its prisoners, but I’d truly hoped otherwise. Yet here we are. Cops nowadays act more like soldiers on the hunt for terrorists than peace officers upholding the law.

And yes, Mr. Floyd probably died because he was black, which seems to have turned more and more into a crime these last few years — not that being black was ever really safe, even here in the Northern states. But having looked into that evil myself, I can almost guarantee you that that cop would have killed anyone who’d been under his knee that day. Black, white, brown, yellow, male, female, gay, straight, etc…

I’ve been mistreated by people like him for decades. Is he a racist? Of course. He’s also a homophobe. A bigot. A woman beater. A bully. You name it, he’s it. Evil men and women like him believe they are superior to everyone else. We prisoners are bugs to be squished. Now you free people are too.

It’s like that old saying goes, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” People like that murderous cop feed off the power their jobs offer. I’ve witnessed it firsthand many times. They may start off normal people, but over time, the power to order another human being around (no matter how crazy or insane those instructions might be) poisons their mind. They literally become addicted to the control.

I know what you’re thinking: Dude, you’re full of crap. How could you possibly know this to be true, you’re just a convict? You’re right, I am just a convict. But don’t forget, I have twenty-five years of experience when it comes to life behind bars. If I’d been a farmer for twenty-five years, or a soldier, or a police officer, wouldn’t I be an authority on those subjects? Of course I would.

Let me run you through a few of my most recent experiences with that oh so familiar evil smirk:

Recently, the Coronavirus swept through our prison. Early on, I was swooped up and thrown into solitary confinement for my “own protection” because my cellmate had contracted the virus and I’d been exposed. And because I was allowed out of my cell for thirty minutes, once every two days, it wasn’t legally classified as solitary confinement. They called it a “close quarantine” — even though it was the hole.

I was definitely lonely, sad, and scared to death, thinking I was infected with the virus that had my cellmate looking like a walker straight out of The Walking Dead. I was tossed into a cell with no sheets. The mattresses are filthy. One blanket. One T-shirt. One pair of underwear. One pair of socks. One pair of pants. My television set. And my Jpay tablet. I was not given any toilet paper or soap or towel.

I’d been thrown in there around 9:00 pm and that first night, I stopped the first prison guard making his rounds of the unit.

“Excuse me, Sir,” I said, “But I need some sheets and toilet paper.” I stepped sideways so he could look into my cell. “Also, the lights don’t work, and they brought me my TV and tablet, but they didn’t give me my earbuds, so I can’t hear the TV, and they didn’t give me my charger cord so I can’t charge my tablet. Which means they are basically useless.”

He hit me with the exact smirk the officer crushing George Floyd to death wore. “I’ll take care of it,” he said, then chuckled like some bad James Bond villain as he strutted away, whistling. I didn’t see him again that night, so I asked the next two guards for help and got the same result. I ended up sleeping on the soiled mattress with no sheets and the only blanket I had. It was cold, but I survived.

By the next morning I had to defecate pretty badly. I explained my plight to the guard working that shift. He too smirked openly.

“Look. I need some toilet paper, man.” I wasn’t quite pleading, but it was close.

He nodded. “I’ll see what I can do.”

I reminded that same guard for his entire shift that I needed toilet paper, yet all I got in return was that same smirk and, “I’m busy.” Or “In a minute.” Or “Damn you’re needy.” Or “Just fucking hold it.” Or the one they’ve been using a lot lately “Can’t you see there’s a fucking pandemic going on?”

In the end, I was forced to wipe my ass with one of my two socks and then wash the sock out in the sink above my toilet. And remember, the lights didn’t work. Which was good. The darkness hid the tears sliding down my cheeks.

It took five days for me to get my first shower and three days for me to be moved into a cell with some lights. Nothing about that experience was pleasant. Yet, in the end, just like everyone else in prison, I was infected with Covid-19. I now sit in another quarantine unit dealing with stomach problems and hoping to survive so I can finally test negative.

God bless you, Mr. George Floyd. You were loved. Are loved. Your ultimate sacrifice will make a difference. Rest in peace, my friend. Black lives do matter.


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Corona and the New Normal

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Life in Quarantine: Witnessing Global Pandemic is an initiative sponsored by the Poetic Media Lab and the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis at Stanford University.

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