Justin Corney has been writing blogs for Prison Writes since we started. Justin now lives with his wife and children and works full time in a hospital. Since I've met him he's impressed me as what I can only describe as a gentle soul. So, the question to ask as you read this, what circumstances would lead such a person to such violence? Some of the answers are in his earlier posts about his childhood trauma, and some answers are in this piece, about what type of a place we send people to.
Miraculously, Justin has returned to society to become a hard working man, caring father and husband. Many people return traumatized, violent, and unable to function. Is that the outcome we want from prisons and jails?
Thank you to Justin for sharing your story. - Jessica Hall
It was all fun and games until we crossed the bridge. As i looked around the bus almost everybody had this desolate look in there eyes. In some people i seen fear like never before. I could tell who the vets was because their vibe was different. They looked like soldiers heading into battle. Eyes locked in focused on their surroundings mentally preparing themselves for what was coming. The closer we got the more the sun light began to fade. It was as if Rikers Island had a dark cloud over it. My adrenaline began to flow as the realization sank in that i was minutes away for being a prisoner at one of the most notorious jail in the country. The year was 2008 right around the time Rikers Island banned personal foot wear inside the jail. That new law caused and uproar and word was that fights and riots were breaking out all throughout the facility between guards and prisoners. On the ride over i was shackled up with a dude i met at MDC. (MANHATTAN DETENTION CENTER). As we got to talking come to find out we had mutual friends so i figured if i'm going create an alliance with somebody it might as well be him. The bus finally came to a stop. I took one last deep breath of fresh air as we lined up outside the facility. When we walked inside the building it was just like in the movies. All the holding cells were overcrowded from the riots and everybody inside them rushed to the front screaming profanities and sizing up the fresh meat. We walked single file down the corridor to the last cell and proceeded inside. I paused by the entrance not knowing the proper etiquette i took a second to observe my surrounding to avoid any first timer mistakes. I noticed my new formed alliance having a stare down with one of the inmates who was already inside. A few words was being exchanged and in a matter of seconds blows were being thrown. I only counted 3 guards on the walk in and around 30 prisoners to each holding cell. I had a quick decision to make. My new formed alliance was getting beat badly but i knew if i jumped in a one on one fight it could spark an all out brawl and it was going be a while before back up arrived. On the other hand if i let him continue to get beat down and word got back that i didn't do anything i could face severe problems the remainder of my stay. What no time left to think i charged in swinging. To my surprise nobody else jumped in. All the blood thirsty on lookers remained silent to avoid attracting the guards attention. Finally after a few minutes later 2 guards came running to the cell. They grabbed the bloody battered beaten man off the ground and placed him in the cell across from us. I was shocked at the way the guards handled the situation. There was no consequences for our actions and no concern for the man we'd beaten. At that moment i didn't feel safe anymore. Not like i did in the first place but whatever safety i did feel was gone. The way the guards handled the situation let me know i was alone. It was kill or be killed. Do or Die. Whatever good i had inside of me was gone. I knew that if i was going survive Rikers Island i had to lose my conscious and become a savage. "Good looking i had that nigga tho." I heard as i snapped back into reality. "Ain't nothing. My peoples your peoples so you family". I said. "He's a RAT". I heard someone shout in the background. Before i could turn my head to see who shouted my heart dropped when i looked into the eyes of the person i just called family. The person i just put my life on the line for.
I could see the guilt in his eyes. He stood there speechless his only defense was "You just mad you ain't have no bail money". Right then i knew they was co defendants and the un provoked fight i thought i was jumping in had history. As the battered man continued yelling accusations trying to plead his case one of the inmates yelled out. "If you don't have no paper work to prove he's a rat shut the fuck up before you get stomped out again". Come to find out the man did have his paperwork. He just blew trial and got 10 years and the man i just put my life on the line for told on him. One thing about jail besides being a child molester being a Rat is one of the most disgraceful labels you can have. As the porter passed the paperwork around the cells for everyone to see i plotted my next move. Being that i just saved this RAT it was on me to discipline him. If i didn't word would of spread throughout the jail what happened and i would of have gotten the same treatment as him. I looked over to him his whole body language changed up. He went from proud with his head up high and his chest poked out because he was feeling himself for the work we put in. To his head hung low and shoulders shrugged because he just got exposed. He had the fear of death in his eyes as he looked around the cell and saw the other inmates starting to form up. He moved closer to me thinking i was going to be his savior again not knowing that i was going to be the one to serve his punishment. He turned to me as if he was about to speak but before he could get a word out i hit him with a left hook. He staggered back with his eyes wide open in shock. Before i could get another punch off the other inmates swarmed him with punches and kicks. I pushed through the crowd and beat him merciless. Even as everybody stopped i kept going. I had a point to prove and a statement to make. I wanted everybody to know i don't condone RATS as i stomped his head in the ground. Once again the guards came and dragged him out the cell blood was everywhere and my fists was swollen. Everybody cheered and yelled as they escorted him away. Shortly after they split us up and put us in different housing units. By the time i got to my cell i was exhausted. The cell wasn't much bigger then my bathroom at home. I dropped my bag down and held back tears. Everything i took for granted started racing through my head as reality sank in that this cell was my new home. I closed my eyes and tried to clear my mind and prepare myself for another day at RIKERS ISLAND.