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The Bob Gurtler Column


In prison, you have a lot of time to think...Bob Gurtler, a former inmate of Riker's Island Prison in New York, who worked on suicide watch

watch, sent us his thoughts...


At the storehouse

Well, there I was at Downstate doing my job at the storehouse when they called for me, I was to go back to the city for court. I was perplexed because I had the understanding that all my legal business was taken care of. At least that's what my lawyer told me. You see I was on probation at the time of my arrest. So obviously I was in violation. I plead guilty to the crime with the understanding I was pleading to any and all warrents. So my penalties/sentences would all run together, or as they say in legal terms "concurrently". At least that's what the lawyer said. Even on the rap sheet that I sent away to Albany for said. All sentences to run concurrtently unless otherwise stated! And there was no statement that I could otherwise see.And so I arrived at prison with the belief that I would be serving a two to four year sentence: with good behaviour that means two years. I was planning to go to my merit parole board in January. Not so..

Last night the judge gave me an additional one and a half to three years to run consecutively which means I could end up doing seven years in prison. But I won't do seven years, with jood behaviour I'll do three and a half years.And so the system has taken a giant shit on me. Now with this new sentence comes a new $210 surcharge that I will have to pay out of my 17c per hour job. It will take years! My family was kind enough to pay my last one can I ask again? My spirits were up with the thought of 'only a few months to go' and I have more time left to do than I've done so far!

It's possible I'll be 45 years old when by the time I get out! I'll be 41 in February.

What was my crime you ask? A police informant asked me if I could get him some dope. He gave me $30. I went and got it for him. He then gave me one bag of dope for my trouble! The perfect setup! This guy was good! He was introduced to me by an acquaintence. He said he was 'sick'. I know what the pain of heroin withdrawals can be like. And so for this act of mercy I'm down by law. Sometimes I wish they could all have but one neck!

But of course that would mean much more time in this place! A few minutes ago I got off the phone with my stepfather to tell him the good news. My mom was asleep. What a relief. I might have started bawling on the phone. That wouldn't be good. Using the phone in this place is like being in the spotlight. First of all there's someone trying to read your pin number so they can call Spain or Carolina or even Timbuktu! And charge it to your account. The weaker get extorted outright! Someone already reached in my cell and stole my toilet paper while my back was turned for one second. Just iimagine if I had seen him, whoever it was, I would have had to fight over toilet paper! As it was I didn't notice until we were locked in and I had to shit! So I screamed out 'Some asshole stole my toilet paper,' which brought various comments and snickers. Things like this are done to gauge your reaction when you're 'new', Someone brought me some paper a minute later...

I just got a cup, a green plastic mug so I can drink water. Next I need a towel so I can dry myself after a shower. The guy in the cell across from me just came over and gave me a small box of rice crispies as a welcoming gesture. That's very nice of him. Most people here are petty and seemingly half retarded. A lot are illiterate and 90% are black. The rest are hispanic. For example, in this cell block on Rikers Island wehre I am right now, out of 34 men I'm the only 'white'. One in 34. And the race bullshit has already started. I heard them 'white faggot', 'jew'. 'he must be rich'. I'm neither homosexual, jewish or rich. But I do know how to read so that is enough reason for them to feel threatened apparently. And this is only the first day.

Body language

In prison, a lot of these men develop a lingo, sort of like a Negro ebonic dialect. And combined with the swagger I'm sure some of you have seen. Rap videos. Bravado. And Smack Talkin, Hand Jive etc. Also they wear their pants falling down so that their underwear show. This is the height of prison fashion. Also sneakers. Some inmatres have nine or 10 pairs of in their cells, that they either buy for a few cigarettes or rob outright off less violent inmates. They clean them with their toothbrushes and catwalk up and down. The tier flossin' and coller poppin, amusing each other with their ability to memorize the latest PDiddly G-Unit rap lyrics.

The black prison culture thang...

I guess I'll never understand it. And we all know majority rules. And I'm going to be here a while. At least until they transfer me back upstate. To downstate. I can hardly wait.

Await my fate

It's contagious! Now I'm starting to rhyme while doing my time!

Well, anyhow I should be ging to an upstate prison 'pretty soon'. Anytime from two weeks to three months: I'm getting conflicting reports. And of course the COs (Correction Officers) are no help at all. Earlier today four guys werer beating and robbing one poor unfortunate. And all you could hear was laughter...pure evil. Believe it or not I've seen worse. Meanwhile the guards, COs, Cops are painting their fingernails or chewing gum. They all seem to be black women with three foot wide asses! And how they stay in the Bubble, a steel and plexiglass nbooth most of the time, only coming out to do a count three times during an eight hour shift. At that time every inmate goes into his cell and 34 steel doors electirically clang shut. Then she walks up and down counting heads.I've seen her lose count and have to start again. No surprise, really, the place sounds and smells like the monkey house in the zoo.

Well, they called Lights Out, and I find it difficult to write in the dark.

Until next time -

Robert Gurtler

[Bobby passed away on sept 22 2006]

Check out Bob's other columns

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