Brain-Health and the Throw'd by Jacob Jills
In the five years I've been a "guest" of America's Prison Industrial Complex I have physically assaulted one person. He was a hermaphrodite who believed he was Jesus Christ sent back to Earth to judge humankind. "The curse of curses!" he called his duty. He was my celly inside a Texas jail before I was placed in solitary confinement under administrative segregation. I forget his name...
"I have a penis and a vagina," my celly said upon his arrival. "You want to see?"
"Uhhhh..., No, Celly." I said, my brow confessing concern. "I think I'll pass."
"I'm not flirting with you!" He said. "The offer was not a sexual advance!" He was visibly upset and agitated in an overt femineity.
"Well, Celly," I said, "That's good to know."
Tall, about six-five, muselmänner thin with long, straight brown hair to his butt, he began to "glue" old yellowing newspaper over the mirror of our cell using toothpaste.
"Ummm, Celly, what are you doing?" I asked, trying to be cordial. I was sitting on the bottom bunk, a book in my hands.
"So they can't watch us!" He replied, his bony hands and lanky arms shaking like an out of whack paper shredder that doesn't quite shred but jams in twitchy jerks.
I've never been a bully. I loath bullies and suffer them lightly. As a kid I was mercilessly picked up due to a stutter that gradually subsided as I developed into an adolescent then young adulthood. My tiny size only exacerbated the whole experience. In it's aftermath I was left an extreme introvert with non-existent self-esteem issues that continue to haunt me into my mid forties. I still prefer not to speak and can literally go days without uttering a single word.
So no!, I didn't attack my "throw'd" (Texas Prison talk for psych/mental patients - as in, his brain is throw'd off) celly with bullying intent. In fact I have in the past and will continue to stand up for weaker inmates against those who attempt to prey upon them.
"Celly, who are they?" I asked.
"The angels sent to monitor my mission." he said. "Do you mind?"
"Not really, cover the mirror if you like." I answered. "You know it's not really a mirror, right? It's polished metal."
"Don't matter." My celly said, squeezing white toothpaste like caulking around the corners.
"Oh - my bad. I thought they could only use real mirrors." I figured I'd play along. We had to live together 24-7 inside a small cage shaking our dicks, wiping our asses, and eating only feet apart. I can get along with anyone - even Satan! A hermaphrodite Jesus, though, would prove especially challenging.
America's asylums have become prisons and jails by-proxy. Of the 2.2 million prisoners nationwide 400,000 of us have some form of psychiatric diagnosis. The National Alliance on Mental Illness says: "In a mental-health crisis, people are more likely to encounter police then get medical help." At five billion a year, the estimated cost to tax paying citizens (you!) is twice as much as community based treatment. But community based mental-health hospitals can only accommodate 38,000 patients at any given time. Let's see if President Trump makes good on his statement after the Parkland Florida bloodletting: "We are going to be talking about opening mental-health institutions again." In 1955 non correctional mental-health hospitals could treat 560,000 patients, a number reduced by 80 percent as the eighties arrived. President Reagan further reduced the figures after being shot, hoping to repeal a large bill signed by President Carter that sought to expand Federal community mental-health programs. Throw in mass incarceration about the same time and what you get is our current system of prison "treatment."
In prison and jail you quickly learn to steer clear of your facility's psychiatric "professionals." Sincere, compassionate care is seconded to liability concerns. Thinking about suicide? Better not tell anyone! You will be treated like an animal; suicide watch makes you want to kill yourself. Therapeutic writing will be used against you as young shrinks attempt to read non existing "threats" between the lines of your letters home. Psychiatrists and psychologists are employed as liability and lawsuit prevention agents rather than brain-health doctors. These agents of the state never introduce themselves, never extend a hand in greeting. Everything is so formal it feels like you're on some assembly line - get in get out as quick as possible...
Many of the psych patients I know fraudulently feign brain-health issues to collect a disability check upon parole or discharge. At the same time using their "needed" psych-medication to sell or get high as part of their prison "hustle", "cheeking" their pills. General population is a literal self-medicating, burgeoning black market. A common drink is mixing "green-monsters" (Neotripolene) with 50mg benadryl capsules in Kool-Aid, coffee, or tea. Crushing and snorting is common, too. And no, not because the drug hits harder, but for the high... Please, don't let the "throw'd" fool you!
Mental-health professionals, though they probably had good intentions, sincerely wanting to help, quickly grow frustrated with the absurdness of the system and scheming inmates, subsequently becoming desensitized to patient needs. All these combined elements have morphed treatment into an us (offenders) versus them (psych-doctors as just one more untrusted cog of America's Prison Industrial Complex) issue.
The casualties of all this nonsense? Real psych-patients who truly need help, want help, but can't get help. And you!, the tax payer by the fleecing of your hard earned dollars to include less safe neighborhoods as prisons and jails release these ill-treated throw'd men and women back into society only to repeat the cycle of madness over and over again.
After blocking the angel's view into our cell my celly paced nervously the six pace length... I should have just minded my own and demanded "Jesus" and I be separated. Being a successful celly requires patience, RESPECT, and cooperation. The quickest path to violence inside a two man cage is greed and selfishness husbanded with inconsideration. True brain-health patients are easy to spot behind bars - so are the fakers. After my "wreck" with "Christ" adorning both gender's genitalia I never again accepted another throw'd as a celly.
He never slept, my celly refused his meds that would have put him down. All night he stood at the sink running the water and peeking under the newspaper shielding him from his angels. After the first night I tried talking to him.
"Hey, celly," I asked after breakfast - he ate like a ravenous zombie inside a cranium - "are you a woman with a penis or a man with a vagina?" He clearly looked and acted as if he was a woman attempting to control a man's body. Personally I've never been "normal" as defined by mainstream American society, so I sincerely possess a deep rooted empathy for those born different. "This is not a sexual advance. I'm not flirting with you!" I added, quoting his same statement.
"A woman born in a man's body with a penis and vagina." He said. He was standing at the sink staring into the now uncovered mirror. "You want to see now?"
"Celly!" I said, "I do not want to see!" Though I admit I was curious. The whole situation was very uncomfortable. But prison and jail force you out of your comfort zone as a matter of ritual.
His shoulders slumped and he let out an exhausted sigh of disappointment, shaking his head as if he couldn't understand me not wanting to see his penis and vagina...
If this is starting to read like an opening scene to some cheesy gay porno flick I'm sorry to disappoint! It's nothing of the kind.
His wanting to show and me not wanting to see killed our conversation. I opened a book. My celly stood at the sink running the water looking for angels looking at him... And so it was for the rest of the day.
The second night was more of the first: noise noise noise! My celly at the sink, water flowing, peeking under the newspaper. I conjured more patience. Again, I should have forced our separation, for patience is not an infinite human virtue.
I was blessed to "Make-Store," prison and jail argot for Commissary. Not a large store but enough to stay in coffee and a nightly meal of one ramen noodle soup. I cannot eat in front of a hungry celly. When I eat or drink, if my celly is indigent, he eats, too. I know what it's like to have nothing and be hungry - it sucks!
After breakfast I asked my celly if he could please be quieter through the night. He apologized and said he would be. Oh! That was easy, I foolishly told myself, pleased to have settled the issue. With the throw'd, however, nothing is easy.
Before lights out at 10PM, the third day I shared a honey-bun with my celly. I allowed my budget one a week. They were large and glazed with mouthwatering, thick white icing. He was very grateful, gulfing down his half in two seconds...
Turns out "Jesus" was homeless, living on the streets since his teens (he was 38) surviving by shoplifting food. He was caught in a super Walmart stuffing lunch meat into his filthy pant's pockets. Instead of a brain-health hospital he was given stainless steel bracelets and escorted to jail. His bond was only a few hundred dollars, a fortune he didn't have. Abandoned as a young child he was shuffled from foster home to orphanage until he turned 18: abused, ridiculed and marginalized the entire journey.
Bread was easily found in trashcans that was generally good enough to eat. Meat of any kind was always too spoiled and rotten. At night my celly would scavenge for any type of bread and in the early morning hours shoplift lunch meat from different grocers. He ate once a day, which explained his emaciated, skeletal frame and his revolting practice of licking "clean" his food trays in our cell with sickening slurps and sucking sounds.
I learned all this over that honey-bun and coffee. At 10PM the lights were turned off, not to be turned on again until 5AM. Too dark to read or write you slept or simply lay there thinking, trying to keep sane. My celly and I talked...
"Celly, why do you run the water all night?" I asked. He had already posted himself at the polished metal mirror pondering ways to outwit the immortals' within.
"If the water is running they can't hear me." He responded. "Maybe they will leave then and I can sleep." His shadowy outline in our dark cell was eerily reminiscent of Slender Man's. "If I could break this mirror I would."
"What happens when you break the mirror?" I asked.
"I can sleep." my celly said. "That's why I live outside. No mirrors. I can hear them in there. As a kid I was sent to juvy for breaking the mirrors in school and at 'home'". He used his long fingers in mocking air quotes with "home".
"A kid!" I said. "How long you been knowing angels are watching you?"
"I've always known something was there. At 14 was when the dream came." He peeked under the paper and quickly stuck the corner back in place. "I was a late bloomer and puberty was torture. I didn't know what was going on as both the male and female inside me began to mature - it was like an internal war, one side ruthlessly battling the other for control of my mind. I had no one to talk to, no one to help me... I... uhhh... was going to kill myself..." He paused and took a deep breath letting it out slowly... "That same night I had the dream. God was hovering over me in a bright light. He told me not to die. That he had made me as I was... Said he sent me to earth as a test. Said humankind would be judged as a whole by how I was treated..." His tone was growing more and more confident and forceful. "You're ALL going to hell!" A self assured, all knowing chuckle followed "hell!"
"Can't argue with you on that one, Celly." I said. "But Celly," I continued, "you ever hear the definition of insane?" It's doing the same thing the exact same way and expecting a different outcome every time. There is no changing humankind. No matter how many times God sends Christ back to earth as some asocial leper to test man, men will utterly fail every time. We bully, hate, ridicule, judge, oppress, torture, murder, rape and are selfish and greedy by nature... God must be insane to send you back a woman born inside a male's body with a penis and a vagina expecting you to be treated compassionately, be accepted by "normal" (my own air quotes) folk and treated as their equal."
I hadn't noticed my celly turn and face me. His fists were clenched, his veins bulging... I thought for a second he was going to attack me. My plastic cup was to my immediate right in my bunk. He was too large for me to fight "fairly" - I wasn't taking any chances with the throw'd! If he attacked I'd literally attempt to smush his face and break his skull with my hard plastic cup. I wouldn't stop pulverizing until he stopped twitching...
He was crying!
"You OK, Celly?" I asked.
"That's why I HATE God!" He said through sobs. "My whole life I've been abused, made fun of, treated like a monster - EVEN AS A CHILD! - I hate HIM!" Tears were dripping off his chin... I was growing more concerned. "All I ever wanted is to be normal, fit in, have friends, be accepted as me - but NOOOO," His tone had turned to one of taunting mockery, " I was born CURSED!" He really screamed that last word which caused me to jump a bit, my heart rate increasing as a jolt of adrenaline excreted into my nervous system... My right hand instinctively wrapping around my cup...
"You want to see now?" My celly asked, still crying.
"Celly! Goddamn I-"
"DO NOT EVER USE MY NAME IN VAIN!" He bellowed, taking another step towards me, his eyes mad with rage...
"STOP! Celly, you need to calm down!" I said forcefully. "And I would appreciate it if you NEVER scream like that again inside this cage. I meant no disrespect, but I do not understand why you insist on showing me your genitalia! To be honest it's very uncomfortable."
He immediately deflated. "I'm sorry." my celly said. "I don't mean to make you uncomfortable. It's just NO ONE EVER wants to see. I see it every day! I HATE IT! I want one or the other, not both! When I show someone it's like I'm reliving my burden - my CURSE! - like if they see they will realize it's not my fault!" He was crying again. Deep, heavy sobs. "I can't help it! If they bear witness maybe they can understand..."
Fuck!, I thought to myself. I'm going to let him show me. I'm going to regret this! But I really felt sorry for him. Some genetic defect at birth ruined his entire life. Americans are some of the most judgemental, discriminatory, close minded, geographically and culturally isolated people on Earth. My celly was doomed before his great grandparents were even a thought. What a shame biology equals fate here in America for so many.
He had sat on the toilet, head cradling his head, the ends of his hair dusting the floor. Sitting he was tall as me standing. The yellow light from the dayroom through the small rectangular window in our cell door framed his face when he looked up at me. His cheeks were so sunken it appeared the cheek bones would tear through. His eyes were so deep-set they appeared as dark emotional sinkholes of despair.
"Let me see it, celly." I said. "No homo!" I wanted it crystal clear there was absolutely zero sexual innuendo in my "bearing witness."
My celly looked up at me in a quick twerk, his head slightly turning left then right like a puppy hearing an unfamiliar sound for the first time. His facial expression turned to one of, REALLY?
"You heard me correctly, celly." I said... "Let me see it. I'll bear-witness." We were alone in the dark, small cell. Everyone was locked up for the night. No one would know - you could hear the door to our pod open as a guard entered on their hourly security checks. Maybe if I saw he would be put at ease a little, calm down and get some sleep, allowing me some sleep.
Without saying a word my celly stood and positioned himself so the yellow light from the dayroom lit up his crotch... He was crying as he pulled up his shirt, tucking it under his long, sharply angled chin. His ribs were imitating his cheek bones. I swear I could see the impression of his spine through his belly. His skin was so pale it was damn near glowing...
With both hands he pulled his trousers down to his thighs and stood straight as a withered sapling, arms at this sides inspection style. I recoiled as a pungent, dirty locker room slapped me across the face... I'm going to have to talk to you about hitting that shower. My celly hadn't bothered on our hour our since his arrival.
But there it was! My own head twitching left left right left, like a puppy trying to comprehend an awkward experience for the first time...
Uncircumcised, the penis hung four inches long under a patch of reddish-brown pubic hair. Where are his balls! I asked myself. Where his testicles should have been drooping from was a vagina with its own growth of black pubic hair... Black! Why two shades of pubes?
"Alright, celly, I've seen it." I said, wanting it to be over. "You can pull your pants up."
Without a word he got fully dressed, walked to the door, and for the first time in 72 hours lay down on the floor in a fetal position - no mat, no blanket - and slept. I had a hundred questions. Still do. I would honestly like to know the science behind a hermaphrodite. I could only imagine the HELL my celly lived from birth in the oppressive, bullying culture that defines "normal" American society - an environment that enables and feeds so many brain-health issues.
I am agnostic, but I prayed to "God" that night. Prayed for my celly and the many like him out in the world driven to madness through a developmental genetic "flaw" in the womb - should a God be out there somewhere listening...
I was pleased he was down. Hopefully I, too, could get some sleep. But it couldn't have been more than a few hours later I was awakened by my celly back at the sink running the water, peeking under the newspaper.
"Celly! You're killing me here!" I said "Will you please be quiet lay down!"
"Do not tell me what to do!" My celly said. "I'll do what I want."
"Please, Celly, do not piss me off! I have been nothing but nice and accommodating to you. I share my food and coffee with you. The least you could do is have some consideration. You are being very disrespectful right now." I was talking to his back. He didn't reply. I turned on my side towards the wall angry and frustrated, thinking how my celly was lucky to have me as a celly; many inmates would have beaten him up and forced him out of the cell by now. With that vagina he really risked rape by the wrong cellmate.
Breakfast came early. But so did commissary, so there was something to look forward to. Orders were done over the phone in the dayroom and delivered to your cell. I had bought my celly his own bag of coffee, his own honey-bun, and a pair of socks. It was freezing - without socks your feet hurt. Those without money stayed cold. I was on a tight budget and forced myself to ration what I bought so I could enjoy a little something every day. It all had to last a week. My rationing discipline is superior to anyone I've ever encountered while incarcerated, a survivor's trait I pride myself on.
"Celly, I got this for you." I said, handing him (reluctantly after the previous night) the coffee, pastry, and socks. His eyes lit up...
"WOW! Thank you!" He replied. "Oh! God is going to bless you!" Then he quoted some bible scripture about sharing. He took all three items with eager, esurient hands.
"Celly!" I stopped him. "This has to last a week. I am going to share a nightly soup still, but this coffee and honey-bun are yours. I'm eating mine Friday night, eat yours whenever you want. Make the coffee last! You can thank me by being quieter at night."
Ten seconds later my celly was licking and sucking the inside of his honey-bun wrapper after swallowing whole the entire thing. He then ripped open the 4.5oz bag of instant joe - spilling some! - and poured it thick into his cup. I grew extremely unnerved and demoralized watching him... I could physically feel my patience begin to boil and volatilize.
I began my morning routine of two cups of coffee (my daily ration) while attempting to write a minimum of three pages a day. My celly still stood at the mirror but now with a never ending cup of mud.
My celly was lost in his own world; a parallel mental state of delusional reality from my own. He truly believed he was Christ sent back a leper to judge humankind by the way mortals treated him. At times I would pause what I was doing and watch him. He behaved like a little kid rapt in his own thoughts, oblivious to his surroundings while playing with toys. He should not have been in jail, but rather a brain-health hospital. It was blatantly obvious he was suffering from some serious mental problems. I couldn't help but wonder how he would be if he hadn't been treated like an outcast and bullied - if he would have been accepted and loved and treated with respect as "normal" citizens are would his brain have deteriorated to its current state of irrational fallacy?
I find it thoroughly disturbing how our society will sow the seeds of mental-illness through malicious treatment, then dish out five billion in taxes a year to warehouse these people behind bars - an environment that augments and inflames brain-health disorders. Does collusion fit in here?
Please, allow me to expound my indictment of all you lucky enough to have been born "normal."
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental-health as: "A state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community."
Is it not obvious? Please, read the definition again... How does anyone expect a hermaphrodite like my celly to realize his/her own potential, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully in a country filled with browbeaters, hate filled discriminatory Christian religious "freedom" zealots, and an endemic public school system of ruthless bullying, marginalization, and ostricization? The only contribution to her or his community in such a domain is of crime enabled by you and your "normal" children through indifference and often a thin veil of open hostility.
If the WHO is correct in its definition of mental-health how it is not incontrovertible the role of our communities as a whole play in the development of brain-health? Your silence and inaction, even though you may not actively and overtly bully, makes you just as complicit: involuntary collusion!
You may have noticed I prefer "brain-health" over mental-health. Brain-health was coined by neuroscientist, Dr. Jeremy Richman, after his daughter was murdered inside Sandy Hook by Adam Lanza. Dr. Richman developed his brain-health check up concept in an attempt to remove the stigma of "mental" in mental-health, hoping to better identify violent patients before their horrible acts are carried out:
"'Mental' is invisible." Dr. Richman says. "It comes with all the fear, trepidation, and stigma of things we don't understand. But we know there are real, physical manifestations within the brain that can be imaged, measured, quantified, and understood. We need to move our understanding to the visible world of brain-health and brain disease, which is tangible."
...the night I gave my celly that honey-bun, coffee, and socks I slept well. I heard nothing and was pleased my genuine empathy and acceptance of his "curse of curses!" through "bearing-witness" opened a little door to his mind allowing in some respect and consideration.
At 5AM, the lights burst on with the arrival of breakfast. I was slow to stir... I sat up as our cell door was opened and an inmate trustee handed my celly two trays. He hand weighed both, taking for himself the one he decided had more food.
"Hey, celly," I said as I got out of bed to receive my tray. "I appreciate the quiet last night. Thank you!"
Knocked out tooth, black eye and busted lip prevention in prison and jail requires a certain fine-tuned, hyper alertness to your surroundings. When my celly didn't respond to my gratitude, his facial expression combined with his eyeball, head and shoulder movements alerted me to something amiss. I could sense it, physically feel it - not all was right in the cell.
"You alright, celly?" I asked. He looked up at me with nervous eyes that darted away then back to my gaze in a nanosecond. I was standing, he was sitting on the floor, tray on his knees eating slowly as if all of a sudden his appetite was somehow guilty by association. When I looked in the direction of his brisk, nervous glance I felt as if I had been kicked in the groin by a World Cup striker...
There was no way to secure your property in the jail I was in. You simply stored your stuff on the floor under your bunk and hoped your celly never violated the cardinal rule of cellies: thou shalt not steal from thou celly. Emphasis is mine!
"Please tell me you didn't, celly." I said as I got down on hands and knees and peered under my bunk... "You stupid piece of shit!" I said. My honey-bun was gone. My bag of coffee had been pilfered - my celly drank his entire bag overnight! Three ramen soups were also missing.
I suffered my own brain-health crisis and EXPLODED!
"STAND YOUR BITCH ASS UP!" I screamed, reverting to prison thuggery. I was standing over him by this time...
"STAND THE FUCK UP!" I yelled. "YOU STEAL FROM ME AFTER ALL I GAVE YOU! YOU SELFISH GREEDY BITCH!" I forcefully grabbed the food tray from his hands and dumped it over his head - grits, syrup and applesauce dripping down his hair. "YOU CAN BE QUIET TO STEAL FROM YOUR CELLY BUT NOT OUT OF CONSIDERATION AND RESPECT!" I bellowed, then threw his three pancakes into the toilet after bouncing the tray off his chin.
"Noooo! MY FOOOOD!" My celly cried. He attempted to reach into the toilet for the pancakes. I kicked him in the chest with my right stocking foot forcing him back. He recovered quicker than I anticipated, stood and tried to push me aside. I jabbed him in his protruding Adams apple causing him to choke, stagger back and grab his throat. I followed with a punch to his gut, bruising my right hand on his spine. He collapsed.
On his knees now my celly managed to reach around me and pull a pancake out of the toilet. He then retreated to a corner, cowering in fear. I picked up his food tray to smash it across his face...
I was out of control. All I saw was RED. In that moment I hated my celly with such a fierce intensity I wanted to kill him. I raised the thick, coarse foam filled brown plastic tray over my head about to smash his face into the back of his skull when I caught a glimpse of him through my rage. It was enough to give me pause...
My celly's hands were raised in self defense; the right holding the toilet water logged pancake flapping side to side; a piece tearing off, landing on his forehead; drops of water dribbling into his eyes causing him to blink rapidly... It was an utterly pathetic sight and I instantly felt a ting of shame from the depths of my conscience begin to creep up my spine promptly extinguishing the inferno that had seized command of my psyche.
I lowered my arms, dropping the tray in three thuds against the floor and sat on my bunk wanting to cry. Seriously, I felt sad, ashamed, and guilty.
At my retreat my celly quickly fished out the remaining pancakes, returned to his corner knees to chest, stuffing soggy bread into his mouth - his wide, worrisome eyes watching me.
I stood... "I'm sorry, celly." I said, reaching my hand out to him in a gesture to help him up. He hesitated.
"Let me help you clean up." I said, my hand still stretched out in a peace offering. "Seriously, I'm sorry." His bony hand took mine and I pulled him up. He just stood there eating his pancakes as I began to wipe clean his clothes and face... No words were spoken. I then proceeded to clean the cell which was covered in bits of food. The clean up complete, I packed up my property and waited... My celly and I never shared another word.
When our cell door opened for the trustee collecting trays I stepped out.
"Get back into your cell!" A jailer sternly ordered.
"Sir; with al due respect, me and my celly need to be separated." I replied. "Someone is going to be hurt otherwise." I was instructed to go sit in the dayroom to await rehousing after I explained what happened.
In my new cell, alone, I did cry... I cursed "God," society as a whole..., and myself.
Four hundred thousand prisoners stored inside America's Prison Industrial Complex have been diagnosed with a brain-health disorder; one out of every eleven that make up the 2.2 million souls incarcerated by the government - myself being one! It's your five billion...
July 26, 2018
It is impossible for me to conduct any kind of real research from a Spartan Texas state prison. I am forced to rely on other offender's magazine subscriptions and any non-fiction book I can get my hands on for source material. My unit's library is useless, as it is rarely open due to the staff shortages.
For "Brain-Health and the Throw'd" I used two publications for my statistics and quotes:
Esquire Magazine (summer 2018) has an article titled "This Place is Crazy" written by New York State prisoner journalist John J. Lennon on mental-health behind bars. I used this article for my numerical stats, Trump's quote, and the Reagan info.
My WHO and Dr. Richman quotes were taken from "A Mother's Reckoning," by Sue Klebold, mother of Columbine shooter, Dylan. Please pardon (pun intended) any errors - they are mine alone.