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Mirror image of a man facing inward, with the background of a bandanna; one half is tinted red and the other half is tinted blue.
Illustration by Teresa Tauchi; Depositphotos.

Prisons are violent, and they are rife with mistrust and fear.

In the latest edition of PJP’s ongoing dialogues between a Blood and a Crip, Red Nose Pit and Blue Nose Pit discuss the violence they have experienced at the hands of corrections officers — and the revenge they have sought in response.

“Fear gets people hurt,” says Red Nose Pit.

Both incarcerated at North Branch Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison in Maryland, the two former gang rivals have broken the taboo of speaking across the historic gang divide to shine light on the realities of incarceration.

The identities of the men are known to Prison Journalism Project; we are honoring their request for anonymity to ensure both mens’ safety.

In their first conversation, Red Nose Pit (a Blood) and Blue Nose Pit (a Crip) discussed the dynamic between those with and those without life sentences. In their second, they talked food and faith. This is the third in an ongoing series. It has been edited for length and clarity.

— PJP Editorial Team

Blue Nose Pit: I feel like speaking on the concept of police brutality within the Department of Corrections. I’ve experienced this myself, and the color of the officer’s skin makes no difference either. It’s just the matter of the badge. I’ve been strangled by a corrections “overseer” while in handcuffs. I’ve been maced and beaten out of sight of the security camera, and I’ve been gang-stomped for attempting to stand my ground. The terrible thing — I’m one of the lucky ones, cuz.

Red Nose Pit: Speaking on this is dangerous. I too have been beaten — in 2015, while in handcuffs. I admit that I was the primary aggressor, but to be handcuffed and assaulted was below the normal. What is it to play by the rules when there are no rules? 

So the reason why I reside in North Branch Correctional Institution, a maximum level II hyper-max prison in the Maryland DOC, is because I sought revenge at the highest level by force of my hands and not my pen, causing officers to quit and retire. This I regret.

Blue Nose Pit: Once again, you speak about something we both regretfully have in common. I too sought revenge — just with a pen at first. But once the institute ignored my pleas for justice, I felt the need to avenge myself properly. 

Now I’m housed alongside you, with an additional 15 years, when I had been due for parole in 2024. Unfortunately, this is the trap that we both fell into, standing our ground for our pride, dignity and self-respect. I’ve heard stories about elderly brothers who’ve lost their lives at the hands of those officers, and no convictions ever came. I’ll never see the streets again. Justice is not fair.

Red Nose Pit: Now bro, I wish I had sought relief through the pen first. I sought it by the sword. Everybody became fair game. Since then, I’ve been paying for those actions. 

When officers see me now, it is the “unknown” that keeps them from clashing with me. It looks like fear. It’s not the respect that I believe I deserve because I am a human being. Fear gets people hurt from my experience. 

It hurts to see that officers don’t view every inmate with the outlook that officers should. Forget the influence and affiliation, and replace it with “human,” a “man of being”

Blue Nose Pit: That’s what provokes most of the abusive situations that I can think of — fear! They manifest that fear into hatred, and they seek to destroy what is hated. 

“Many people fear what they don’t understand,” right? 

These officers rarely come from our communities, so most of them do not understand our culture or our principles and values. There’s so much hidden fear and hatred that it’s dangerous. 

I don’t even want to get into the racist and prejudiced behavior.

Red Nose Pit: We can’t ignore it. Ignorance at all levels requires acknowledgment. 

I don’t want to sound like a basher of the convict population, because I am actively for us. However, I don’t believe that we, as convicts and inmates, need to show our teeth all the time, just because we have them. 

As a teacher of hundreds, I believe actions require civility when possible. I’m also not the best at this either. 

This doesn’t excuse the racism, prejudiced behavior and the policy brutality. They’re required by law to act as our guardians. To excuse them would be wrong. 

A Blood and a Crip Talk Series:

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Chris.X is a writer incarcerated in Maryland.