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Word Count: 5,205
When I was sent to the Missouri State Penitentiary at Jefferson City in February 1960 there were 2500 men inside the walls The white convicts slept three to a cell except for several hundred in the one-man cells The blacks slept as many as eight to a cellStabbings and killings robberies and rapes were common Dope was easier to get in prison than it was on the streets There were men in prison who were said to make more money each year from dope and gambling than the warden was paid There were captains on the guard force who owed their souls to certain convictsYou never knew whom you might have trouble with The reasons for murder and mayhem made little sense to anyone except the convicts So hundreds of men either carried a knife or had one they could get to in an emergency You wonder if you have an enemy in the population If you have he has the advantage He got there first he made friends he knows the prison He has a knife you dontA lot of men thinking of the enemies they made outside begin to imagine that they see them in a chowline or in a line of men going to work And many of them check in for protectionA lot of men would rather die than check in A lot of men have died though all they had to do was walk up to a guard and say protect meThere are other ways of getting into trouble in prison No matter how much youve been around you feel uneasy when you go to prison If you are young and goodlooking you can count on being confronted again and again If you have money there will be people who want it If you are helpless there are people who will try to make a reputation at your expense Or you may simply say the wrong thing to the wrong
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