I suppose we, myself and the rest of the inmates of ” Tent City ” were pioneers,
we set the example, or should I say, an example was made of us…
Three-forty-five in the early winter morning, sleeping outside in military tents. Twenty-five inmates stacked on metal bunks with just the essentials. One or two blankets separate warmth from the cold stillness of the outside. The sounds of inmates usually the old timers, coughing in sickness make sleep a difficult task. Most are too weak or to scared to seek medical attention, the prospect of medical lock-down is not as thrilling as roughing it outside in the olive green canvas tents. A handful of inmates attempt to work on their bodies, bench pressing the one-hundred pound steel bunk beds with the additional weight of a few volunteer inmates situated on top. Folding the bed rolls and placing them on the ground, creating a firm support for your back. The person then lies on top of the folded mattress which allows for adequate clearance to fully extend ones arms. There is a certain harmony during these workouts, a very professional and harmonious atmosphere is created – it almost makes you forget were you are, that doesn’t last to long.
Other inmates are plugged into there radio’s totally unaware of the goings and comings around themselves. Thinking of the outside world, of all the daily joys that one takes for granted, good food, one’s freedom, and of some female companionship. Some of the more ambitious inmates, usually the ones that are staying here for many years, wonder around from tent to tent trying to either sell or buy contraband, tobacco, drugs, stolen items, or anything that was not readily available to the common inmate through legal prison lines was in high demand.
The camp is under very sever racial disturbances brought out by many factors. Such as very cramp living conditions, extreme weather conditions, cold during the winter nights or one-hundred plus degrees during the Arizona days. Without the proper heating or cooling facilities and insufficient clothing it’s just a matter of time before the bomb explodes. The second factor is the constant harassment from the camp guards, which despite their unique training, are like young kids with new toys. Usually the guards have military experience and have graduated top of there class which would make you think they could handle their positions. A large percentage of the guards have been trained in various fighting techniques and weapons usage, making them all just a little sadistic. Dressed in beige camouflage desert uniforms, equipped with an assortment of weapons attached to there belts, giving them the appearance of a Desert Storm Trooper.
Stun-guns were just introduced into the picture during my enlightening stay at tent city. On several occasions I witnessed the very brutal results of the power of these torture devices. Without warning, three or more guards burst into the small confines of the tent, sudden confusion and a mad dash to you bunks. It is to late the guards have singled out one or two of the more visible prisoners and have begun what seems like an endless verbal beating. Eventually the atmosphere becomes more hostile, like a school of hungry sharks – at first just playing with there prey and then going in for the final kill. First kicking there victim and then hitting with clenched fist. Finally, the horrible conclusion, ZAP!…It’s over, cuff him, and drag his limp body to lock down, he’s back in one or two days. The hit squad has done there damage, their point taken and there message well understood, “do not fuck with us or we will take action”. Not realizing that there method of communicating there thoughts was beginning to wear thin, and the inmate community was beginning to get agitated and very hostile towards the institution. More and more incidents were becoming a daily occurrence. It is as if they were trying to get things going so they could extinguish there own fire, boredom?, or were they venting there own inner inadequacies, there hostilities, there anger from there miserable lives, nightmares from the military. These questions will never be known.
The constant noise, twenty-four hours a day, sirens, bells whistles, and the announcements over the intercom system, mixed in with 300 inmates speaking and yelling in the background, night and day, it is very maddening after a while. You never really sleep, short naps all night, ones ears fine tune at night, able to hear distant conversations in detail, not actually acknowledging what is said, trying to tune everything out, not able…restless
After a while you know every detail of you bunkies life, you know about their family and their girlfriends, especially their girlfriends. I imagine that most of the stories are lies or at best exaggerations of the truth. Listening contentedly, every detail heard and accepted as the truth. You become close to certain fellow inmates, persons you might share the same interest, or enjoy playing cards with. I suppose you become a family of sorts, each member helping to the best of their ability another member through a hard time, each gaining support from the other.