USP Florence: A California Yard

Shot Callers: Part 3

When I arrived at USP Florence it was a California yard, what does that mean? Well, it means that men from California made up the majority of the population. Yes, there were plenty of men from other places, including Texas, but when I arrived and being the majority, the California-Boys ran USP Florence with an iron fist.

This group of guys from California consisted of the California Aryan Brotherhood known in the system as “The Brand”, the California Mexican Mafia of “American Me” fame, called the “Black Hand” as well as the L.A. Crips – California boys ran everything – guys like me walked a thin dangerous line on that yard. I, as an outsider knew that at any given time they could take me down and that there was little or nothing I could do to prevent it. In my book “As a Convict Thinketh” I tell a story about how in my first year there at USP Florence that I unknowingly offended one of the Black Hand by not honoring my word. I was spared because the White-Boy Speaker spoke up for me, by basically telling them I was new in the system, and a dumbass on top of that. Yeah, you learn quick, ’cause them boys ain’t playing! (You can download a free copy of, As a Convict Thinketh)

An important thing to know here is, the California Aryan Brotherhood and the California Mexican Mafia run together – if one goes to war, they both go. FYI, the only way you’re accepted into one of these groups is if you’ve put in serious work, no, they don’t take everybody who wants to patch up, in this, these two groups are different from all the others, for this reason, they carry a lot of respect in the system. If you want to be one of them, you get your start somewhere else, a sub-group like the Surenos or the NLR (Nazi Low-Riders) among others. But you don’t just patch up with the Black Hand or the Brand unless you’re a bad mother-F’er. All them boys are the real deal. When I tell you that the Brand, or the Black Hand ran the yard, what I mean is, there might only be ONE of them on the yard! but they run it, because all the other sub-gangs (Family Members) choose to operate under them. Okay, back to the story.

Up until this time there were no Brand on the yard, the California White Boys were run by other Cali family members, but somewhere between 2003-2005, I can’t remember exactly, word came down that a Brand member was fixing to be released from the ADX Supermax, next door, to the yard at USP Florence. The rumors were buzzing.

When Ziggy hit the yard I remember seeing him for the first time and thinking damn, that’s a tough looking character. He was about 6′ 3″ tall, heavily tattooed and wore that big thick moustache the old school “Brand” guys are famous for; yeah, one look and you knew he was a tough son-of-a-bitch. Make no mistake here, Ziggy, was famous in the system for cutting the head off another bad-assed dude. No, I don’t know if its true, that’s just what the fellas were saying about him. So, when Ziggy hit the yard the other family members, regardless of their own patch, gave him their support and turned the keys over to him; the Black Hand welcomed him as an ally, and he was.

I of course watched all this from a distance and was frankly fascinated how ONE man could carry such respect. So this is your first lesson on how Shot Callers are made: some men earn it on other yards and are, because of who they are, and how they’ve carried themselves in the system, automatically given that title and the respect that goes with it.

As I went about my business of trying to survive the place and the sentence I’d been given I saw Ziggy only in passing, but I didn’t speak to him, nor he to me; the gangs ran the yard and I hadn’t, “patched up”, I was an outsider, and as such my exposure to him was limited. But my curiosity got the best of me and several times as I walked by I took a sneak peek at Ziggy and his crew, and the weird thing was, HE was watching me, too! Yeah, he had noticed me, for some reason, I was on his radar.

A little while after Ziggy hit the yard a youngster from California hit the yard, too. On the street he’d been patched up with a group called I.E. “Inland Empire”, on the streets they were associates of the Brand and he quickly became Ziggy’s right hand. Now this youngster “Ghost” happened to be in my cellblock, and as a result we became friends, not hang-out buddies, he had his own crowd and I was an outsider and a loner to boot, but we were friends who spent time talking in the block.

Among the White-Boy families on the yard at that time was a group out of Utah called S.A.C., pronounced “sack”, (Saviors of Aryan Culture). These boys hailed out of Salt Lake City Utah, and are some tough assed-white boys. A side note of interest: One of the two original founding members of SAC was at Florence, and I kid you not, this guy was 6′ 7″ with tattoos from feet to head – big bastard- but not at all what you’d expect by looking at him, he was a really nice guy. Anyway, my son Marco came to Colorado to visit me and we were sitting in the Visiting Room when he walked in to see his own family, and passed right in front of my son and I. My son looks at him, then turned to me and said, ” Holy Shit, pop! Are you alright in here?” I laughed and assured him I was. But lord have mercy, he was intimidating to look at. Later I heard that, at another joint, his own car, stomped him out … damn shame too, he was level headed, in a group that’s not known for being level-headed, or reasonable. To be noted: At USP Florence, SAC, fell under Ziggy.

In my cell-block there was a guy called, Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown and I were friends, not close friends, but friends. One day Charlie Brown went to the Hole, I have no idea why; one day he was walking around the cell-block, the next he was gone, happens all the time. In fact, a lot of the time you don’t even know a guys gone, until you see him return and realize you hadn’t seen him around.

A month or so after Charlie Brown went to the Hole I was in my cell painting when I heard a knock at my door. I look up to see Charlie Brown smiling at me through the glass in the door. I motion him to come in, which he does. We sit and talk for a half hour or so, then we hear the guard holler, “Mail Call!” So, we, like everyone else gathers around the horseshoe shaped counter in front of the guards office hoping to get some love. All of a sudden in the middle of the guard calling the names of those who had mail Charlie Brown starts stabbing one of the SAC members with a hard plastic shank. I won’t bore you with all that happened after that, but Charlie Brown, like me, was a Independent white-boy, not gang affiliated, and for an Independent to attack one of the gangs, was a serious violation. I knew this of course, but, even with that understanding, at the time I really didn’t give the incident much thought. It was a random incident, and Independents are still men who will occasionally get fed up with a gang member and stab the shit out of him, it does happen. But, like I said, it was a random incident, it didn’t involve me … boy was I in for a surprise! Unbeknownst to me, I WAS involved!

As expected Charlie Brown and the guy he tried to stab were hauled off the the Hole and the rest of us went on Lock Down. When the yard opened back up all the gang members went to the yard to fill Ziggy in on what had went down. It came back to me that the opinion on the yard was, that Charlie Brown had come straight out of the Hole, went to my cell, where he stayed until Mail Call, then left my cell to stab dude. That could only mean one thing … I’d given him the shank he then used on a SAC member. Serious! Serious F-ing violation! In fact, I could be killed for it!

A few years earlier I had had a “Hit” put out on me by one of the Mexican Gangs for the exact same thing; for allegedly giving a Bonecrusher to another race who then used that weapon to stab a Mexican family member. Lucky for me, the guy given the job of “Hitting” me, was in my cell-block, didn’t believe I’d do such a thing, and did a little investigating only to determine that it was in fact, another white-boy named Mark, who had in actually, sold, a piece of steel to an Independent Mexican who then used it on one of the Mexican family members. Now, the guy, Tattoo Eddie, who was supposed to “Hit” me later relayed the story to me about how close I came to meeting Jesus and then gave me the name that I am now known throughout the system as, Mayor Mark, this so I could never be confused with the myriad of other white-boy Marks in the system. And it’s true, there’s only one Mayor Mark in the entire system. Yeah, I was given my moniker by some California gang members. That other Mark? Yeah, they stabbed the shit out of him. A side note: The guy who was supposed to “Hit” me, Tattoo Eddie, later on ran afoul of his own people – the guards said he was stabbed 64 times.

Anyway, here I was again, same predicament, only worse this time, because in actuality, even I had to admit, I looked guilty as hell. Back to the story.

When I heard what was being discussed and what was being said about my involvement, I was almost sick to my stomach , it looked bad! God Damn you Charlie Brown for putting me in a bad spot; you’re laid up in Protective Custody, and I’m in the open trying to survive your bullshit. Truthfully, I didn’t think I could survive it. What happened next, would set the stage for how the rest of my time in prison would go.

Well, you’ll have to wait until next week to hear the unbelievable conclusion to this story.

Thanks for your patience. Peace be with you. Mayor Mark

Three Rivers, 9-25-18