Slop. Beige water with disgusting looking lumps of some unknown substance. Pure slop. That’s what was on the trays earlier today. Gabriel is in the first cell on the row so he was first to get his tray. I could tell by his reaction to seeing what was on the tray that a “situation” was about to occur. A few seconds later I got my tray – “what the hell?!” – and Kenneth got his. All of the trays were the same so everyone else on the run was complaining to the officers.
It took us about one minute to decide on a plan of action. Six of us decided to conduct an impromptu direct action demonstration by refusing to give our trays back. The officers working the pod called their supervisor and Sgt. Brown showed up a few minutes later. He went to Gabriel’s cell and told him to give up his tray. Nope! Gabriel explained that he would not give back his tray until we were served a decent meal fit for a human. He continued his protest speech until Sgt. Brown scattered away from his cell in a frustrated frenzy. My neighbor refused to give up his tray also and then Big Brown came to my cell.
“Give up the tray Will!”
I explained to Sgt. Brown that I would not consent to the “rules” of this deplorable system and give validity to oppressive actions – such as feeding us slop – by giving him back my tray. I continued: “Sgt. Brown, look at this slop. This is ridiculous. Would you eat this? It’s unfit for human consumption and you know it. No, I’m not giving back my tray. We’re just asking for basic human rights, not special treatment…” I continued on ‘til Sgt. Brown stormed on down the run.
I want everyone to know that when we dialogue with these officers we do so in a way as to encourage self-reflection. We just don’t “wild-out” and talk shit. Different officers have to be dealt with in different ways so we deal with each one accordingly.
So, this was the situation: me, Gabriel, Kenneth, Reg, and another guy all refused to give back our trays. Staff members have two options in a situation like that – 1) they can call the Emergency Response Team and gas six people or 2) they can resolve the situation… Sgt. Henderson came on the pod, walked on our section and told us, "The Warden’s on the building on his way to the kitchen. We’re gonna get ya’ll some 'Johnny Sacks' so ya’ll can give up the trays". We all felt that Sgt. Henderson was serious so we gave up our trays. A few minutes later the Warden, Lt. Ritchie, all of the sergeants and some more officers came on the pod.
Lt. Ritchie was down the run when he saw what was on the trays. Though he’s one of the most sadistic staff members that works here, even he was surprised by how bad the trays were. Lt. Ritchie surely didn’t mean for us to, but we overheard him telling Sgt. Brown "They’re not supposed to feed shit like this". Since all of the “rank” was on the pod we used the opportunity to address various issues. Surprisingly, Warden Hirsch said that he’d take care of the food issue and a few minutes later Sgt. Henderson came around with the two officers working the pod and they passed out decent “Johnny Sacks”. For those who don’t know, “Johnny Sacks” are what they serve us during lockdowns; they’re brown paper bags with usually a peanut butter and bologna sandwich in them.
Sgt. Henderson told us that Warden Hirsch “got on the kitchen’s ass and from now on there’s a new policy: before the first tray is made, death row rank has to make sure it’s decent.” Amazing! One of the main reasons that our trays were so bad was because general population officers supervised the kitchen. GP officers don’t care about what goes on back here because they simply don’t work on death row. They could care less about protesting because the kitchen staff never come on the pods. If this new policy does take effect our food should get much better.
What happened today is a perfect example of how protesting on the inside works. Our people on the outside have been stressing the food issue as well. I can just imagine Warden Hirsch leaning back in his nice leather chair in his office, feet up on the desk, enjoying his morning coffee… daydreaming about what new sadistic policies he can come up with…
Buzzzz! “Yes, what is it?”
His secretary replies: “Mr. Hirsch, you have lines 2, 4 & 5 tied up with people complaining about the food the death-row inmates are being fed!”
“Dammit, tell them I’m out of the office and I won’t be in all day!” Click!
Two minutes go by. Just as Warden Hirsch kicks his feet back up on the deck…
Buzzzz! “Uhmm, Mr. Hirsch, the ombudsman’s office just forwarded 20 e-mails from individuals and various organizations lodging complaints on behalf of death row inmates. One of the main complaints is the food service… Uhmmm, excuse me a second, Mr. Hirsch, Major Nelson is on line one; she has an emergency situation on the death row building.”
“Dammit. Put her through!” Click, click – “What is it Nelson?!
Major Nelson replies in a frustrated tone, “Mr. Hirsch, we have six inmates refusing to give back their trays on …”
“Dammit Nelson, what the hell is the problem? I’m trying to have a cup of coffee!!!”
“Sir, they’re refusing to give back their trays in ‘protest’ of the food service and…”
Enraged, Warden Hirsch slams the phone down and rushes out of his office, his precious coffee left behind him, soaking into the carpet, laying next to his well-used coffee cup that he knocked over on his way out… DRIVE on!
One Love, One Struggle:
Robert Will – 999402