When I arrived at the prison in Pollock Louisiana, it was for all intents and purposes, a new joint. It had been built some years back, but due to Federal Budget Restraints, hadn’t been opened until 2010. Pollock was a big yard with 12 cell blocks meant to house 120 men each. When I arrived they had filled 11 of the 12, so when I walked in to my cellblock, F-4, there were only about 40 men in it. Hell, when they opened my cell door the mattresses were still covered in plastic – no one had ever slept in that cell prior to me. It took another two months before F-4 was filled to capacity.
The problem with a new joint is that the prison rules I’ve been harping on aren’t established. For instance, at the time of my arrival there were six TVs in the entire cell block … six TVs for 120 men! What is supposed to happen is that the TVs are divided up per race, i.e.; the whites have one, the Spanish Language folks have one or two depending on their numbers, the blacks have one or two and so forth … whites are ALWAYS the minority. But, because those rules hadn’t been established, the bullies, were controlling them. I tell a story in my book “Where No One Hears Me” about how a group of young blacks tried to take the White TV – you can read that story there. Point is: by being transferred to a new joint, I encountered a whole new set of unfamiliar racial and political problems.
At my arrival the white boys at FCI Pollock were divided into state cars … the Texas guys formed the Texas Car, the Oklahoma guys had an Oklahoma Car and so forth; the three major groups were Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. These groups did not respect each other and there was a constant power struggle going on between them … the Texas Car had the biggest numbers and were in effect, running the Wood Pile; White Men are called “Woods” in the system … I have no idea why.
The biggest problem facing the white community was that the Louisiana guys were split into two separate groups that were at constant odds with each other. But it went much deeper than that. Of these two groups one was made up of a lot of white boys from New Orleans, men who grew up with blacks. These men wore their hair in corn-rows, sagged their pants and talked like Hood-Rat blacks. The other group were country and Cajun whites who looked and acted like Trailer Park whites, constant drama.
As a result of prison politics the other white boys on the yard didn’t trust these New Orleans whites and didn’t want to associate with them and damn sure didn’t want to live with ’em. The tension this caused was enormous; they, the New Orleans guys felt threatened by their own kind .. truth is, they were more comfortable around the blacks they knew, than the whites they didn’t. There were ill-feelings on both sides and a lot of the Whites drew the conclusion that “When” not “If”, but when something racial did jump off, that these South Louisiana Boys would turn on their own people and fight against them. Remember, everything in prison is racial. For instance: if I’m living with a guy, my own race, I have to be able to trust him. I can’t live with a man who will set me up and even attack me because some other white dude I don’t even know has unknowingly gotten the whole White Car in a wreck. That is why we don’t want to cell with other Cars; this ain’t just Whites, this applies to ALL of the races, we prefer to live with our own kind. You can’t have everything you do and say in the privacy of your own cell put out on the yard, trust is a must. So the whites who were in the cells with these South Louisiana guys, didn’t feel comfortable, and, vice-versa. Lots of tension.
As a result of these different cars and the tension between the North and South Louisiana cars, the white community was a constant problem. It was a bad spot for whites … no rules, no consequences and no loyalty … I’m old school, I came up under the rules of the Penitentiary System; I know what can happen when those rules aren’t observed.
The biggest problem by far however, was that the White Community as a whole, led by the Texas Car, had decided they wouldn’t allow any white gang members on the yard. On the surface of things this might sound like a good thing, but in my opinion, it wasn’t – my reasons? Well, first, the white boy gang members are all about white business, just as the Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Indians are about the business of their people. It ain’t personal, it’s prison business. And in the event that something racial does jump off, The Family Members won’t run; I can’t say that for all “Independents”. So, without going into details here, I’ll say that me, the Oklahoma Car and a guy from Arkansas named Marshal Duncan were instrumental in removing from the yard, the man who spoke for the Texas Car, the man who had convinced the yard to adopt this policy.
To get to the point here, the majority of the white-boys on the yard could see how dysfunctional, and therefore unstable the yard was; that it was quickly headed towards a head-on collision with one of the other races. They wanted me to fix it – I was offered the yard for the second time; the first time was when I got off the bus … people who knew me from Florence had heard I was on my way and wanted us to take over the yard. I refused both times. Why? well, I ain’t comfortable in that position. You have to be a complete idiot to WANT that position.
Todd Massey, me and SIS
One sunny afternoon a friend of mine from Houston named Todd Massey and I were walking down the sidewalk headed to the Recreation Yard when we were pulled over by S.I.S. Officer Voorhies. SIS, stands for Special Investigating Services, they are the F.B.I. in Federal Prisons. Any criminal activity that goes down in prison, to include any criminal activity on the part of the guards, SIS handles it. They know the history of every man on the compound, they know every gang affiliation and they deal with the “Rats”, they are the top of the heap as far as Prison Officials go. While the upper brass are in their offices watching animal porn on the Internet, SIS is working the yard. You don’t become SIS because of some college degree – these men and women come up through the ranks, they’re like beat cops, and like beat cops they know their neighborhood and the folks in it.
This man SIS Voorhies is a big bastard, like 6′ 5″ tall and carried himself like a man who can handle himself in a bar fight, more like a convict than a guard. Up until that moment, I had never spoken to him … but word on the yard was, he was hard, but fair. So when he stopped us it was a little bit of a surprise, but not totally unexpected.
The gist of the Voorhies conversation was that the new Captain of the Prison Complex wanted someone to step up and take control of the splintered and dysfunctional White Car. He was asking Todd and I to pass the word along … staff brass wanted a White Speaker. We told him we’d spread the word; we did, again it came back to me, again I refused the keys to the yard. But, I did ask for volunteers to Speak for each individual Cell Block, as opposed to the individual state-by-state clicks we had at the time. This would not endear me to the individual state Speakers who suddenly had their control reduced. In fact, odd as it sounds, the Texas Car actually tried to move on me over it, but its very hard to move on a man like me – they’d try again later on when a big-time Texas Shot Caller was transferred in from the yard in Beaumont – another story for another day. Time passed and lots of things happened, things I don’t have space for here – but at this time, no one was at the head of the white community, but I was the guy the cellblock Speakers consulted when needing advice.
At FCI Pollock the biggest group on the yard were the Paisa’s, the Mexicans from Mexico, they comprised about 400 of the 1400 men on the yard. In addition to them were the Surenos, who themselves numbered about 40 or 50, and, who backed them up. So, to take on the Paisa’s meant you also took on the Surenos, and vice-versa. Yes, the same Sureno Car as Chongo and the guys at Florence … only problem was, I never told them about my relationship with their people at Florence – No, it wasn’t a secret, in fact a couple of Surenos had been transferred from Florence to Pollock like I had been, and so the Surenos knew my story, but, again, I never spoke of it nor my being “Blessed” by their Big Homies. To this day I’m still not sure how that would have been received … one thing is for sure, the guy Speaking for the Surenos at Pollock, at that time, Big Homies or not didn’t like me, though most of his crew did.
One afternoon one of the fellas came into my cell block in a panic and said, “They need you on the yard! The Whites and the Paisa’s are fixing to go at it!”
I dropped what I was doing and rushed out to the Recreation Yard where I saw the Whites and the Paisa’s in a stand off. I also saw that men on both sides appeared to be armed – there are weapons hidden on every prison yard. I looked around and saw several of the Recreation Guards watching from a safe distance trying to figure out if they needed to sound the alarm.
I walked up to the front of my people and listened as they explained the issue, from their side. The Paisa’s were calling one of our guys, a Rat. They were angry and so were the white boys. When I had all the information available I turned and saw the Paisa and Sureno Shot Callers in front of their men. As if on cue, the three of us started that long short walk to the neutral ground in-between the two cars where I met Gordo, the Paisa Shot caller and the man who spoke for the Surenos, again, I repeat, he did not like me, nor I him.
To make a long story short, the Paisa’s believed one of the white boys was a snitch for the kitchen guards and had gotten two of them fired … no proof, but the two guys Gordo called over to tell me their story, seemed credible. I stood my ground about there being no proof, but told them I’d look into it, then turned around and walked away. When I got to my guys I told them to break up, that there wouldn’t be anything happening today, that it was over, and pretty soon everybody broke up wondering what the hell I’d done to resolve the issue. Really, I hadn’t done anything except to listen and then dismissed the issue, and subsequently the tension, by saying I’d deal with it. I mean, what were they gonna do? The way I saw it, the Paisa’s had two choices when I turned to walk away, they could holler at me to stop, or they could let me handle my business. They decided to trust me.
Later that day I pulled up the cellblock Speakers and told them that I had a funny feeling the Paisa’s were telling the truth. I explained to them that we don’t automatically assume someone is telling the truth just because they’re white and that I wanted them to talk to every white boy who worked in the Chow Hall, to see if any of them knew what had really happened. After a couple of days of investigation, one of the white boys who worked in the kitchen told us the truth – he’d seen dude finger the two Paisa’s … he was a snitch.
With this info I pulled up Gordo and told him what I’d found, then told him that we’d deal with it. I suggested that he and the two Paisa’s who’d been wronged be at the Handball Court after the 6pm move. I had also sent word to the snitch to likewise be at the Handball Courts after the move. As soon as everybody was in place two men put the boots to him as the Paisa’s and Surenos watched from afar. Why, you ask? Well, this is precisely the kind of spark that falls into the weeds and becomes a raging fire. Cruel, yes. I called it? Yes. But what else do you expect me to do, let three hundred men try to kill each other?
After that event I, even though I vehemently denied it, was the undisputed Speaker for the Yard. So, in these stories I have now shown you several ways in which men become Shot Callers. One: They are given that respect as soon as they hit the yard because of who they are or what they’ve accomplished on other yards, like Ziggy. Two: They accidently fall into it, like I did at USP Florence. Three: They are chosen by the other Cons who willingly follow them. The forth way is: Sometimes a Bullie will gather a group of his friends and take a yard by force. I have a saying that goes like this, “Any man who WANTS to be a Shot Caller, is the wrong man for the job”. For this reason it’s important for good men to stand up and take control, if they don’t, one of the idiots will, and chaos will ensue.
Next time I’ll give you a little taste of how I dealt with the problem of the South Louisiana Car and kept the peace at Pollock. I’ll also introduce you to a few of the guards and tell how they ran the yard from their end.
Peace be with you.
Three Rivers, 11-2-18