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A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's Prison


Fishflh n, a: Prison slang for a new inmate,

b: A memoir.


Prologue •


1 Camp Dearborn • 1

2 Last Chance for Romance • 6

3 The Absence of Drama • 12

4 Who's Angrier than Who? • 15

5 Chain Reactions • 18

6 Safety in Numbers • 23

7 Early Induction to an Inverted World • 27

8 The Big Blue Wagon Ride • 32

9 Prison Transfer • 36

10 Convict Orientation • 41

11 Quarantine • 49

12 Riverside Correctional Facility • 61

13 Lasting Impressions • 80

14 Slide Step's Squeeze • 95

15 Lessons in Streetball • 106

16 Blemished Masculinities • 111

17 What's in a Name, Anyway? • 124

18 Careful What You Ask For • 135

19 Taken by Surprise • 143

20 Compromising Choices • 166

21 What's My Lie? • 173

22 What's Under the Covers? • 181

23 Help Ain't Gonna Come Runnin' No Time Soon • 188

24 You Never Know Where It's Coming From • 196

25 When All Else Fails ... • 205

26 Black Panther ... • 209

27 Greener Grass • 217

28 Consider Yourself Part of the Family • 231

29 The Oracle • 243

30 Head Games and Power Trips • 255

31 Go for the Grab • 267

32 Wolf Tickets • 276

33 Broken Promises • 284

34 I Will Arise and Go Now • 298

Epilogue •


Afterthoughts •


Acknowledgments •


Fish is an accurate memoir of events in my life that took place over twentyfive years ago. I have changed the names and identifying details of others who were involved in those events. The names and identifying characteristics here are not accurate as to any living individuals known to nee. I have used the real names of members of my family and some prison officials.


State Prison of Southern Michigan Jackson, Michigan April 15, 1978

The office was in a converted prison cell. The bars had been removed and replaced with gray painted cinderblocks. The door had a large window that was covered from the inside with old rusty blinds that hadn't been cleaned in some time. At eye level, the word PSYCHOLOGIST was stenciled on the glass.

When I entered the office, he pointed to a wood chair in the corner and told me to take a seat. He looked like the guidance counselor at my high school. He was in his thirties with dark brown hair. A corduroy jacket hung from the back of his chair. He pulled a file from the stack on his shelf. "1-53-0-5-2, Parsell. Is that you?"

"Yes sir," I said, my voice slightly cracking.

He didn't look up as he flipped through the file, scanning the pages of what was to become my prison record. The size of the folder was impressive, considering I had been there only a few days. He read the Pre-sentence Report. "You have a control hold," he announced, still not lifting his head.

"What's that?"

"It says here that you still have an armed robbery pending."

"Yeah, I don't go back for sentencing on that until June."

"Well, its only April," he said, closing the file. He read something on the cover and opened it again. "It means you're going inside."

"Inside?" It didn't make sense. Inside meant inside the walls of maximum security. "My lawyer said I would go to a camp," I said.

He didn't respond; he just continued reading the file.

"Ever been fucked?" he asked abruptly.

"Excuse me?"

"Fucked," he repeated. It was the first time he looked up from his desk.

I blinked, not sure I was hearing what he said. I looked over at the closed door and then back again, too stunned to respond.

He swiveled his chair around so that he faced me and tossed the file onto his desk. "You have a control hold," he said, "because you have a capital offense case pending." He placed his hands behind his head and studied me as I sat there staring back at him.

"What do you mean, capital offense case?" I asked, grateful he changed the subject.

"Any crime that carries up to life is considered a capital offense case. Because you have an armed robbery pending, and because armed robbery carries up to a maximum of life, we have to send you inside until you're sentenced."

He eyed my tall but skinny, hundred and forty-eight pound frame.

"Armed robbery," he said slowly. "You're a pretty dangerous guy."

"Not really," I said, ignoring his sarcasm.

"What did you rob?"

"A Photo Mat," I answered, almost sheepishly.

He was silent.

It started out as a joke. I hadn't actually intended to rob the place.

"It was with a toy gun," I added.

He still didn't say anything.

He just sat there looking at me.

My lawyer said it didn't matter that the gun wasn't real. As long as the girl inside the photo booth thought it was real, it was considered armed robbery. I was hoping it'd make a difference here, so that I wouldn't be sent inside.

"So," he said, leaning back in his chair. "Ever suck a dick?"

"Fuck, no," I said.

"Well, you will."

"No, I won't."

He was silent again, for a long moment. The hum of the electric clock seemed to overpower the noise from the crowded cellblock just beyond the door. Seven Block was quarantined, where they assigned the fish-new inmates. We were kept locked down until we were classified and shipped to whatever prison we were to serve our time. The psychologist was the last step before we met with the Classification Committee.

"You're going to M-R until your case is adjudicated," he announced.

I had heard about M-R, The Michigan Reformatory, while I was in the county jail. It's where they sent young inmates who were serving a lot of time. Someone once told me, "Whatever you do, don't let them send you to M-R." Inmates

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