Drinking whiskey with a sergeant at California’s securest prison

We met at a bar in the back of a Mexican restaurant at the edge of town.

I wanted to know about assaults, about verbal abuse, about what it feels like to kiss your kids goodbye every day knowing there’s a very real chance an inmate will rip your throat open with a chunk of cafeteria tray before nightfall.

He told me about accepting death beneath 18 fists and 18 feet, about feeding the man that stabbed your partner, about making love to your wife with a condom for three months because someone with hepatitis shoved feces in your mouth.

It was raining outside.

Crescent City street at night

In coastal Crescent City, it always seems to be raining this time of year. Sun-smothering clouds drizzle in their sleep. Wet winds slap flesh from white to red then back to white. The soul swallows salt water.

He smoked Seneca Lights — Tax-free cigarettes sold by the Native Americans who worked the land here before the prison folks, the loggers and even the gold hunters.

Most of all, I wanted to know, why. Why spent your days with rapists and murderers at what’s been called “the largest maximum security lock-up in the free world”? Why be a correctional officer at Pelican Bay State Prison?

We drank whiskey. And he told me … more

Posted on by Luke Whyte | 6 Comments