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The Stand Up Count by Mark Anthony Given


Be thine own palace, or the world's thy jail. -John Donne

           YOU WANT TO CHECK IN?  Owe somebody money?  Fixing to get your ass beat for any number of misgivings; for people who don’t know how to “Jail,” it’s easy to get your ass in a crack.   If you had any Balls you’d swing on someone in front of the cops (guards), but the surest way to go straight to the Hole, or the “SHU,” the Fed’s call it, is to interrupt the “STAND UP COUNT,” AT 3:50 pm everyday of the year, nationwide.  That second Shift doesn’t go home until the Count is capitulated, and just like you at the end of a days’ work…..they want to go home. 
      “Excuse me Officer?  Do you know what’s for supper to night?”  Straight to the Hole. 
      “Excuse me Officer, What’s your wife’s favorite color?”  Straight to the Hole with an ass whooping…
      ACTUALLY WHAT HAPPENS he will stop and look at you like you must be retarded or “Checking In,” and will pause just long enough to glance up at your Cell Number and write it down and keep going and you can start packing.  You’d have better luck trying to swipe a government pen out of the Wardens shirt pocket.  Your going straight to the Hole as soon as the Count is Cleared and they will make a big example out of your ass to forewarn others of the slippery slope.

      EACH OFFICER IS REQUIRED to physically Search so many Cells per Shift.  usually you were at work but on the weekends you could see them coming down the line looking into Cells to either randomly Search or likely Inmate’s who have been caught with Contraband in the past.  When I was in the United States Bureau of Prisons in the late 1980’s for federal Bank Fraud and they had just discontinued allowing Inmates a yearly Package from Home.  30 lbs maximum, usually at Christmas, so the only thing of value was Postage Stamps, Cigarettes and Gold Medallions and Chains.  Before they placed a maximum dollar amount of like $300 on them, you would see guys gleaming on the yard with real Gold.  I had a girl send me a Gold Chain with a small Gold Cross on it which I promptly was offered and sold it for three One Hundred Dollar “Balloon’s,” or about a $20 bag of Pot pulverized into a Pyrex Test Tube or unbreakable vile lined with Balloons, which they would smuggle in through the Visiting Room via the Good Bye Kiss, and throw it up as soon as you get back to your Unit or Cell.  Worked like a Charm. 
      THE PROBLEM WAS transporting the three Contraband and Illegal Balloons packed with Marijuana from one end of the Federal Institution to the other.  Having to traverse to two sets of Security bars or a Trap, to prevent large groups of Inmates from moving through the Medium Security federal Intuition, manned by experienced Correctional Officers with magnetic Security wands for those pesty metal objects… But having waltzed through 75 banks and _______ of the government claimed was 2.5 Million Dollars with little more than a song and dance routine and a pretty smile, I was up for it.
      IN CONTROLLED MOVEMENT Institution, which everyone I been in now has, you don’t get to wander around the joint, you move when they move, usually for ten or fifteen minutes on the bottom or the top of the hour.  And you can under a lot of circumstances visit each other’s Units, so, me walking through the gates to get from one end of the joint to the other with a group of five or six other inmates on the last Movement of the day was completely normal.  Even getting pulled to the side at the last gate to “Catch the Wall,” while the guard quickly passed the Metal Detector wand over me, patted me down and only glanced at my half eaten pint of Rocky Road Ice Cream with a spoon stuck in it and three small colored Balloons on the bottom.  Happened so fast and routine by the time the last guy passed thru the Gate, I was right behind him, hollering for somebody to wait up….  Slick as Ice Cream…..

      BUT I DIDN’T PLAN on the routine shakedown coming down the hall.  I seen her coming for ten cells, she was a real short Mexican woman trying to tear down the glass ceiling, door by door she had to get up on her tippy-toes to look in the little window and using her sniffer like a lost Chihuahua at a Fiesta, on whose little world to examine.  Some of them open your little Master Lock with their key, pull up a chair and spend the day reading your mail.  Spend all afternoon inspecting every inch of your cell like the Pentagon wanted to know what was in there…. 
      I JUST GOT BACK with the three balloons of pot, two Red and one Blue, and had eaten all the Ice Cream because I just knew I was home free.  But I didn’t see this coming until I looked up and seen her coming down the hall like a trained German Sheppard Dope Dog, OD’ing on Red Bull and maniacal focus.  She might spend one minute or five minutes and down the hall she came, I just knew she was going to ask me to step out while she shook my house down…

      IF YOU KNOW WHAT A “Terry Stop,” is, you know that 90% of a Cop’s contact with you is determined by how you act.   If you’re nervous, they want to know why…. well, the “Smooth Operator” knew not to panic and act natural and/or try and swallow all three of them balloons….she had come out of a cell just two doors away and I just knew my number was up, when I dropped my drawers to my ankles and sit down on my bed and started picking imaginary fleas from my groin area…..

      “What are you doing?”

She had stopped at my door and was talking into the small window about chest high for a normal man.
            “Oh, shit! I think I got Fleas!  Come here, look at this!!”  She looked at me with open disgust and keeps going like she didn’t just see that…..

9 Pages 1,931 Words 3:45 PM 7/19/2013

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