Quite a few years ago in Calipatria State Prison, I was on the basketball court, waiting to get back into the building from the recreational yard when a guy by the name of “Jamaica” approached me with a Ying Yang Twins CD he was trying to sell. I asked if I could borrow it to see if I liked it and he said it was cool. Well, due to an incident that occurred in another yard, the prison was placed on lockdown and I was unable to return his CD.
The following day, the tower officer began running showers; however, program was modified due to the incident the day before. Anyhow, I was in the cell working out when my door opened for the showers, so I grabbed my shower gear and the guy’s CD, and headed for “B Section” lower shower, when out of nowhere I heard, “Where’s my shit at?”
I looked towards where the yelling was coming from and noticed Jamaica standing at his door. It was me he was yelling at. Well, when I realized this, I became a little irritated, because there was no reason for the guy to be getting hostile with me. So I grabbed my gear and walked to his cell. I pulled up at his door and asked, “What’s your problem? Why are you yelling at me like that?” And he responded, “Because you kept my CD overnight when you should have sent it back yesterday!”
So I told him: “Look, Jamaica, I know common sense isn’t very common around here, but if you’d used yours, you’d know there were no porters on the tier yesterday, because they locked everyone down when the alarm went off on the C yard.”
My comment upset Jamaica, and we began arguing. He disrespected my mother, who was very ill at the time. I got very mad, but couldn’t get to him because the door was closed. I took advantage of the fact that the doors were perforated, and I spat in his face before walking to C upper shower.
While I was in the shower, I regretted acting in the heat of the moment because I knew that it was going down when we saw each other.
I was lathering up when I heard what sounded like yelling on the tier. I looked at the officer in the gun tower and noticed that his hands were on the control buttons, and he was looking towards Jamaica’s cell. Next thing I knew, the officer’s head slowly began turning in my direction as if he was following someone with his eyes.
Out of nowhere, Jamaica walked up to my shower and pulled open my shower door.
I was standing in the shower, completely naked and wet. I looked at his hands, and noticed he was holding two razor blades. He was waiting for me to come out.
“Look, let me put on my clothes and shoes. At least give me that much,” I told him. He told me to “hurry up” as the floor officers were yelling his last name in the background. “Tapper, what the hell are you doing? Get down here!”
I bent down to grab my shoes, when I told myself “to hell with clothes and shoes.” I punched Jamaica as hard as I could in his face. I began swinging at him as hard and as fast as I could, butt-naked. He began swinging his razor blades with his head down to avoid getting hit in his face.
We were engaged in a full-on fight, when the floor officers jumped up from the podium and began yelling, “Get down! Get down!” and started running upstairs towards us, with their pepper spray canisters out. The tower officer hit his alarm and the building’s buzzer started going off as inmates throughout the unit ran to their cell doors to see what was going on.
Jamaica was hacking away, and I was swinging for my life when the corrections officers (COs) arrived and aimed their canisters at both of us. Jamaica threw his weapon over the tier and proned out, so I moved back and proned out.
The COs told me to jump back in the shower because I was still completely naked. I was pumped up from the fight because I knew I put it on him and was feeling proud of myself. I didn’t think he was able to cut me.
But then, as I was pacing, I saw blood. When I looked down, I saw a piece of me sticking out of my right chest as well as incisions across my left chest, ribs, inner left arm, the side of my stomach, and an X across my throat.
He got me and he got me good.
By then, the dayroom was flooded with COs. I was placed in handcuffs, as was Jamaica, and we were escorted out of the building. On my way out, I heard the “ahs” and “ohs” from the onlookers as I passed their cells, so I knew it must have been pretty bad, but at the same time, knew it could have been worse.
I ended up receiving 122 stitches and then going to the hole for a week.
That night in the hole, I experienced some of the worst pain in my life. As I laid on my side, all sutured up, I thought to myself: as bad as this hurts, it’s probably nothing in comparison to what Jesus felt after getting whipped 29 times, stabbed, having nails driven through his hands and feet, as he suffocated on a cross wearing a crown made of thorns.
The difference was that my pain was in vain — for pride and a Ying Yang Twins CD. His pain was to demonstrate God’s love for us and to endure that suffering so that we didn’t have to pay for the wrongs we’ve done in our life.
The day I was sliced, my eyes opened to so many things, including wisdom and knowledge. For that, I wouldn’t take that day back even if I could.
This is my recollection of a true event that took place some years back while I was serving time at Calipatria State Prison. I’m grateful to still be alive!
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.