IT IS A BEAUTIFULL 77 DEGREES at the Federal Correctional Facility at Marianna, Florida, and small whiff from the Gulf of Mexico, 99 miles due south can be discerned, but not from in here. It's at least 125 degrees in a 14 by 10 foot room that was once a janitor closet but now suffices as the Exercise Room, just big enough for six Schwinn Airdyne exercise bikes all going at once. From here with my headphones rocking and a huge auditorium box fan circulating the funk, I can see George Martorano across two glass enclosures into the Arts & Crafts Room, painting his thirtieth attempt at the Perfect Mother Mary to take him away from this awful place. Dude plead guilty on advise of his attorney thinking he'd get 10 maybe 20 years at most. First time non-violent offense the Federal Sentencing Guidelines called for 5 year sentence and the government "stood silent." Meaning it was up to the judge. But because he had a big Italian name and the newspapers were full of real mobsters killing each other, the heartless judge sentenced George to LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE!
BLACK FOLKS WENT OFF in the late '90 over the new Crack Law being upheld by the US Supreme Court, effectively sealing the fate on a whole generation of young black folks... I have been in the middle of more than one prison riot and this one was quite serious. Because of the Cuban Riots in the late 80's, the Bureau of Prisons had removed all free weights and replaced them with these exercise bikes and stationary equipment. My celli was a little black guy named Joseph Davenport who grew up on the Gulf Coast. He had a string of crack houses and night clubs that got him 17 years in federal prison without parole despite never having been caught with anything. When I came back from the hole after the Cop on the Compound deal, Joe approached me in the center of the unit where the new fish slept on Army cots until a bunk came available. I took a little heat for bunking with a black guy but I knew Joe was quite and clean. I didn't know it at the time but his angle was to get me to read his trial transcripts after the Crack Riots when we were locked down for nearly two months eating sack lunches and boiled eggs.. Joe told me a week in advance they were going to "go-off" because he knew I was crazy about not losing my legal material. People trusted me to read their briefs or transcripts and if I lost them it would not be good. I had been paying several people .25 per name of every informant they ran across in the Federal Reporters and Federal Supplements. I would take five minutes to show them how to comb through the cases looking for certain words then record the names and cases they appeared in. I had hoped to establish a web site for attorneys' to access before questioning a informant on the stand. The government liked to use the good informants as almost show ponies and they would work several cases all over the country. When you asked one on the stand if he has ever testified in any other criminal matters and he says no, it could be years before his name appears in print. But I already have it. I probably had 300 pages (25 names and citations on each page!) of that to protect, a lengthy porn collection and a stack of appellate briefs two feet high. People on the compound knew that I bought briefs. If your case was over and that stuff was just taking up space under your bunk, I wanted it; I must have had close to a hundred. I'd give them a few bucks for it, depends on how fat it is (My prized possession as 175 page CCE (Organized Crime) government TRIAL BRIEF from EDNY USA Office).
I HAD A PILLOW CASE FULL of appellate briefs and legal papers in plastic bags and working on the Yard when All Hell Broke loose about 9:15 in the morning. The Yard is generally a good catch for convicts; pick up a few cigarette butts and spend the rest of the day walking the track and working out. I was finishing up my hour straight on the exercise bike before the next Movement, when a group of black guys started swinging make-shift curling bars at Safety Glass with metal mesh in it, because it was the only thing breakable. End Part One the Crack Riot Chronicles Copyright 2011 by Mark Anthony Given