Corrections, A Love Poem and Prison Tattoos

My friend in Switzerland, Conny has informed me that in my last posting where I told you about Jeffery Pribble, the man Rocco (Mike) Beckcum put on Death Row in Texas that I made some errors, yeah, she frigging looked him up!!! How cool is that! I will now correct those errors here :). First, his name is Ronald Jeffery Pribble and second, he was convicted, on Beckcum’s testimony, of killing a family of five, not three. Sorry about that.


Beyond watching eyes
With sweet and tender kisses
Our souls reached out to each other
In breathless wonder

And when I awoke
From a vast a smiling peace
I found you bathed in morning light
Quietly studying
All the messages on my phone

I saw this poem in a book about the street art of a person named, Binsky. It made me laugh and I wanted to share that laughter with you.


As you can well imagine tattoos are a big part of prison culture – as the Robert DiNero character in the movie “Cape Fear” so adequately says, “There ain’t much else to do in prison, ‘cept to desecrate the flesh.”
You’re probably wondering how a bunch of prisoners can come up with the machines and ink to even do tattoos, well, I’ll tell you that the tattoo guns used in prison are made from small spinner motors. These motors are scrounged from a variety of things like computers, calculators, adding machines, CD players – all kinds of things you can’t even imagine, all stolen from the Guards or the Prison System. Trust me, these guys are genius’s when it comes to figuring out ways to acquire a motor for their guns.
Every prison in America, if not the world, has the same issue; prisoners are going to tattoo each other and there ain’t a damned thing the prison staff can do to stop it, nothing.
As you know I spent more than a decade as a prisoner in the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence Colorado, during my time there I must have had six or seven different Wardens – yeah, they change every couple of years or so. Anyway, we had one show over there named Sarah Revell, the first female Warden I encountered and man was she a bad ass!
Miss Sarah, as we cons called her was, well … a bad ass! Yeah, I know I already said that but I meant it, she was something else. First, she was absolutely fair and unbiased – if you had something coming to you, she’d make sure you got it. If you didn’t have something coming she’d look you right in the eye and tell you so; she didn’t lie, and if you didn’t like what she had to say, or disrespected her, she’d lock your ass up till you did understand. Like I said, she was fair and that’s all any convict can ask for, well, that and don’t lie to us – but what I liked most about her was the way she treated her staff, the Guards – how’s that you ask? Well, she treated them just like she treated us – she expected them to do their damn jobs, she didn’t tolerate whining and she was just as quick to put them in line as she was an Inmate, oh, and when she caught one of these lyin’ ass guard’s lying, man, she would embarrass the hell out of them, sometimes in front of the prisoner they lied to; she didn’t tolerate a liar.
Under Miss Sarah, staff knew they’d better do their jobs – all the parties, all the lazy assed shit these guards pull, which goes on in EVERY Federal Prison, didn’t happen under her, it was work first, parties later. Trust me, they didn’t like her.

In the old days they used to sell Beard Trimmers in the prison store, but of course, the fellas were using the motors for tattoo guns. As a result of this, some bureaucrat decided that the way to stop the tattooing going on in Federal Prisons was to take away all Beard Trimmers – of course I’ve already told you how wrong he was.
Anyway, along comes Miss Sarah and she puts out a “Memo” to staff and inmate alike saying, I paraphrase here, “I’m going to order the Commissary Staff to begin selling Beard Trimmers because I’m tired of the inmates tearing up my equipment to get their motors.” Yeah, just like that she bucked the upper echelon and made a common sense decision … oh, the Guards, some of who don’t want us having anything at all, were furious with her over it. In fact the guy who was in charge of the Prison Store REFUSED to follow her orders and filed a report against her. Yeah, he tried to get her removed, you know what she did? She removed him from his position and then when the Prison Guard Union protested and said she didn’t have the authority to remove, she removed him from the USP and sent him next door to the FCI … she got him the hell off her yard! Like I said, she was a real bad ass; best Warden in the system! Point is: she had the courage to say and do what was the most logical thing to she could … like I said, you ain’t gonna stop prisoners from tattooing, you just ain’t, so be an adult about it.

Ink is the next component to tattooing and these guys of course can’t BUY ink, so they make it. The most common process of making ink is by using soot, soot of course is the by-product of fire. Yeah, that soot. What they do is make a candle that uses cooking oil and then set that candle, lit of course, in their locker between shelves. What happens is, the soot from the candle flame rises and collects on the bottom of the shelf above it. Once they have a good build up they’ll scrape it off and mix it with water … of course there’s a little more to it than that, but you get the gist … like the motors, they’re gonna get ink, you can’t stop it … hell they’d use semen and eye lashes if that was all they had. … What … hell no, I ain’t speaking from experience here … my ink was made from soot … HELL YEAH I’M SURE … well … pretty sure … NO, I made that up! You can’t make ink from semen and eyelashes … No, Conny, don’t look that up! and if you do and find out you CAN make ink from semen and eyelashes, please don’t tell me!


The tattoos in here are almost always cultural; Blacks, Whites, Asians, Mexicans, Indians etc. all get tattoos which reflect their culture. For instance the most popular tattoos for white guys is Viking stuff and American flags and swastika’s, for Blacks the most popular tattoo of all time is “MOB” in big letters, MOB of course stands for “Money Over Bitches”. For Mexicans it’s Aztec Indian stuff, the Virgin Mary and more fashionable these days, the Santa Muerte, or Saint of Death so fashionable among the Drug Cartel wanna-be’s. For American Indians it’s feathers, and portraits of famous Indian chiefs. For Asians it’s dragons. Those are the most popular tattoos in the system. Me, I have the tattoo that’s the least popular; the one very few others have; the one I never want to see on another human being; … tattooed across my belly is the word “LIFER”.

Three Rivers, 11-8-19