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Ron & Pepe Go On A Visit

Ron & Pepe Go On A Visit

Ed. Note: Names have been changed.

Sacred is not a word easily applied to anything that has to do with prison. Demonic might be better suited. It’s definitely an evil place. I didn’t know what real evil was until I spent my time in the joint; that true monsters walked the Earth, disguised as men, scheming and dreaming of doing horrible things, and not feeling a damned thing about it.

Yup, you can't throw sacred around too much in the can. There’s one thing, though, which is a Holy Occasion for most cons: visits.

When someone comes to see you, it’s as if you step out of a time warp; people have aged and done different things with their appearance, but you’re still rocking the same clothes and hairstyle. Almost like getting to see a little bit of another world.

People planned their whole schedule around visits in the joint. You’d talk to someone two weeks in advance, and see if they could iron your shirt and pants, put a nice little pleat in them, too. People would plan all their business around it, as if it was the biggest deal in the world.

In a lot of ways, it was.

Visits were also one of the ways that dope came in, next to staff-assisted introduction. There were all types of creative moves to get it in, too. Everything had to be in balloons, or in some type of secure plastic wrap. This way, things could be swallowed, or shoved up someone’s ass, according to what the situation called for.

It’s really a heartbreaking situation, if you think of it in its entirety. The women who would bring the dope in were usually the wives or girlfriends of these dirtbags who were asking them to put everything they had in jeopardy, in order for them to get high and/or make money from drugs. When they were caught, it meant all new felony charges for everyone involved, and the mule being taken into custody. It was a big deal. It wasn’t something they were going to give you a ticket for.

They don’t call them conmen for nothing. These guys prey on a certain type; mainly those who’ll buy into their bullshit. All types of people: young, old, stupid, smart; none are completely safe from the web a Master Manipulator can weave. These guys are wizards at reading people and playing off of their strengths or weaknesses. If only they’d sought some honest work, like sales or business. They would’ve cleaned house.

Instead, they were conning their wives/girlfriends/side-bitches into risking a felony record and time in prison themselves, should they be caught with any of it. Narcissistic? Check. Sociopathic? I’m not a psychologist, but I’d think so.


The Visiting Room was a large, rectangular space with a small, partitioned section known as the children’s area. The partitioning wall was about three-feet-high, and created a space for people who were bringing small kids to visit. Cops could still see in, and the little ones were able to crawl around and play. Dads being able to hold their children, uncles seeing their nephew or niece for the first time; lots of emotions going on in the children’s area.

Lot’s of sex and drugs going on there, too. There were only two CO’s working the Visiting Room, which meant if someone could see where they were looking or if they were busy with a visitor and/or inmate, they’d be able to do some type of sex-act. Believe me, it wouldn’t matter how much time they had; if a dude thought he could get his girl to give him a little head or play with it a little, he’d have his thing out faster than shit.

There were also a row of vending machines which bordered the partitioning wall to the children’s area. There were spaces in between those vending machines. If a girl was willing, she and the inmate could squeeze up in said space and get busy. Very common; I’d be visiting with my mom or grandma, look over one of their shoulders and see some dude taking his chick from behind. Get in where you fit in was a popular prison motto, and it was definitely applied there.

You have to apply a little self-control in these types of situations, as to not get yourself in trouble with anyone; in prison, when something’s going down, drug deal, ass-beating or otherwise, you’re not supposed to look. You look anywhere but where something’s happening.

I know if you saw a couple, fucking on the hood of their Camry in front of a Walmart, they’d probably be surrounded by a small crowd of spectators, not even trying to hide the fact they’re watching. Normal reaction, for people to stop and stare; it’s a moral stance or upbringing which dictates otherwise.

Not so, in the joint.

There’s two main reasons why: First, it’s none of your fucking business. That goes for everything in prison. Cardinal Rule: Mind your own business. You don’t know how crazy someone is, but you do know everyone who’s in the joint with you did something bad or wrong to get there. You stick your nose into something, you may offend someone, or a group/gang of people. Not something you want.

Secondly, you don’t want to be the reason a person gets busted. If a CO glances at you, and sees you’re staring at something, he or she’s going to look and see what you’re staring at. If you get a gang member or some seriously deranged individual in trouble, you’re going to have big problems. People will come after you. Again, not a situation you’d want to find yourself in.


When your loved one came into the visiting room, you were allowed a kiss, and a short embrace. After the initial contact, you could hold hands above the table you were sitting at together. When the visit was over, you were allowed another kiss and hug. That’s it. Anything else, and the CO’s would start watching you, seeing if you were up to no-good. Another hard impulse to control: not seeing your wife or girlfriend for months-possibly years-and being expected to keep your hands to yourself when you do finally see her.

If you wanted to continue with your visit, however, strict adherence to these rules was necessary. Some cops were looking for any reason to screw up an inmate’s day, and fucking off one’s visit was the ultimate way you could do so. You’d usually get a warning or two, if you were getting a little too touchy-feely; a lot of these CO’s were humans beings with beating hearts in their chests, and I’m sure they didn’t want to be the bad guy in the Visiting Room. However, if you took it too far, these guys would boot your ass right back to the housing unit.

I never had a problem when I went to visit. I wasn’t one of the guys who went out of my way to show the cops I though they were pieces of shit, so I was usually left alone. When my family would come, I’d have a great time. If anything, the CO’s would tell me to keep it down, since I can get a bit boisterous when I’m having a good time. Thing was, I wasn’t trying to do anything illegal, either. I wasn’t sweating what the guards were looking at because I wasn’t trying to hide anything, which makes a huge difference in the grand scheme of things.

We’d get food from the vending machines; microwaveable hamburgers or hotdogs were like gourmet food, next to the prison garbage they were feeding us. I could scarf two hamburgers, a hotdog, and an ice cream sandwich like it was nothing. Card games. Go Fish. Uno. A lot of the times, it was just bullshitting, catching up on all the good, dumb, or sad stuff our loved ones were doing. Whatever it was, the feeling of familial love was a breath of fresh air in such a stale place.


You’d see other guys at their visits, and sometimes it would make me laugh, how these dudes would act a certain way on the yard, but completely different around their families. Gangsters, tough guys, weirdos: seeing them come out of their prison masks while they were playing with their children, visibly grateful for the few hours they’d have to hold them, breathing in their smell and not wanting the day to end.

Sadly, you’d sometimes see some men who would let other men suck their dick go out to visits with their wife and kids, and you know the wife doesn’t know dude’s a closet homosexual. This guy’s living a lie, and making his wife an unwilling participant, more often than not. He maybe putting her life at risk, too; people with AIDS are allowed to be with the general population. It’s their right. No one’s allowed to know who has AIDS, either. Hippa, or the Patient Privacy Act, prevents staff from disclosing such information. Some guy could contract it and give it to his wife, effectively damning her life, as well. Who knew.

I don’t want to scare a bunch of ladies into thinking their man went gay as a soon as he hit the front gates; it was nothing like that. Most of the time, it was guys in the same position I was in: dudes doing their time, missing their families, and wanting to savor what they had, when they had it. It was the separation. The real punishment, if you will, of prison is being isolated from society. Because of a wrong I’d committed, I was rightly stripped of my rights and possessions. Consequently, I was taken away from everything I knew, and brought somewhere else. Society no longer existed for me. I simply wasn’t a part of it anymore.


One of the guys I used to see in the Visiting Room was also my neighbor in the housing unit, as his rack was situated near mine. His name was Ron. Black guy, mid-forties, built like a running back for the Raiders. He’d go out and see his wife and two kids, and he’d usually get busy with his lady. They’d leave the kids watching a movie in the family area, and go find a spot between the vending machines while other inmates would try and block the CO’s view. He was doing life, so his options were super-limited, and he was making the most of them.

We both had weight bags under our bunks, and we’d talk shit to each other while one of us was doing our reps. Smart guy. Not dumb, at all. Super-strong, too. I remember people watching Ron and I arm wrestle at a dayroom table one time, excited to see the both of us going at it. My thing is, I’m a lefty, so if we’re arm wrestling, we have to go both hands. Usually, I’d beat people with both; not bragging, it’s just how it was.

However, when I arm wrestled Ron, he beat me right handed. Even crazier was I couldn’t beat him left handed. Couldn’t get dude’s hand down to the table; it was like trying to move a rock, no lie. If I’m cranking on someone and they’re able to take it, they’re strong.

We’d talk when were in the dorm together; we’d keep point (watch out) for one another if the situation arose for one of us. He had great conversation, and a witty-sarcasm which he was able to back by factual data. He read a lot; we’d trade the papers or magazines we were going through with each other, and he’d go through them all. We’d talk about the news in the morning and be out in the day room, watching the morning news shows on TV.

Almost like friends.

Except friends we were not. As cool as Ron was, I had to remember he was a hustler who was doing life for murder. If that wasn’t enough, I could tell when we spoke he didn’t think highly of white people. He was nice and we’d joke, but it was an angle he was playing: know your enemy. I had zero doubt in my mind if a riot kicked off between the blacks and the whites, Ron would be the first guy in line trying to shove a shank through my sternum.

Other than that, we were cool.


About the seventh year into my stretch, a guy named Pepe rolled up on the yard. He was a norteño who was around my age, and was doing seven-to-life for an armed robbery he’d participated in. Total dope fiend, too. I watched this guy shoot heroin into the veins of his eyelids, no lie. He had his wife bringing it in for him; they’d go sit over in the family area with their three kids she’d bring along for cover, and she’d give him the balloons.

Reckless, when you think of what would have happened if she’d been caught trying to smuggle in heroin. They’d have taken her and her children into custody on the spot. She’d have gone to jail, having been charged with a felony, and her kids would have been wards of the state, barring some relative stepping in to take care of them. To this day, I don’t know what’s worse: a guy asking his wife to smuggle in drugs, or the wife who’s stupid enough to go along with it.

when I first met him, I thought Pepe was cool, in the laid-back sense of him being high all the time. He wasn’t trying to run with the homies, but all the homies were trying to run with him. He was the Dope Man. With him getting his steady supply, he was hooking up his people and selling whatever he had left over.

They protected him, too. If you had a problem with this guy, you’d have two youngsters in your face before you knew what to do. He was a meal ticket for all the norteños, and quite a few people in other races, as well. No one wanted to see anything happen to this dude; if the steady stream of heroin which he represented dried up, prices would skyrocket, and all the different dope fiends would have to start going through withdrawals. Pepe was in a good spot, as long as he kept doing what he was doing.

Problem with druggies is, they’re unreliable as fuck. You can take the most spot-on, dedicated, driven person on the planet; if they’re introduced to the Dragon, their soul’s a goner, sooner or later. You’ll feel like you’re in control at first, but the sneaky serpent will find a way to infiltrate and take over. You will be controlled, chasing the Dragon into the night. It’s the way it goes.

Pepe ended up buying into his own hype. He got cocky. He’d walk the housing unit with his entourage like he owned the place, and he’s slow-drag everyone, including the cops. I’m pretty sure they knew what he was up to, but they probably appreciated everyone being mellow and subdued in the building, being they were all nodding-out at the level of high they were experiencing. You could tell when a large or steady supply of drugs hit the yard by the way people would be acting in the housing units. A lot less people running around. Quiet.

Problem was, when the Dope Man started acting like an asshole to his customers, he forgot a key player in the Game of Prison: The Snitch. Also known as the Rat, this character in the Game was someone who didn’t mind fucking up your life in order to cover his ass. So, when people started getting busted by CO’s, were made to take drug tests and getting new charges, they started rolling over. These dope fiends didn’t want to get another four, six, or eight years added on to their sentence, and besides, Pepe stopped hooking them up for free, so might as well.

Now Pepe’s hot. If the cops thought something before, they knew something now, thanks to the line of turds ready to debrief. They’re watching his dorm, looking to see who the regulars are go in and out, and keeping track of everything. A nice, neat little bundle they’ll present as evidence in a court of law against him when they decide to do a raid, or catch him in the act of smuggling in drugs.

Pepe’s not trippin’, through; he’s doing life. He was rolling like a big dog, and he wasn’t about to give up the lifestyle. He was still having his wife come, three kids and all, bringing balloons full of heroin and/or speed in her pussy, so Pepe could swallow them before he went back to the housing unit. Yeah, the cops were watching, so Pepe would coordinate with his homies, have them run interference, or take some balloons back themselves, get a mule-fee in the process.

One time, the CO’s grabbed Pepe when his visit was over and threw him into a single-man cell with a toilet which wouldn’t flush, placing him on potty watch. If you were suspected of having smuggled something in at a visit, this is what they’d do. The goal was, they’d wait until you took a crap before they’d send you back to the housing unit. Then they’d sift through it, making sure there was no contraband. When they were satisfied, you’d go back to the yard. However, if you did have contraband, you’d be sent to The Hole, or Administrative Segregation. There you’d sit, depending on the severity of the crime, awaiting new criminal charges.

They didn’t catch Pepe. The cops were a little sloppy with their investigation; Pepe and his homeboys could tell right away they were being staked out. Pepe gave the balloons to a few different homies, and didn’t take any himself. Sure enough, they grabbed him, but he had nada. He broke his homies off some of the goods, and everyone was happy.

Well, everyone but Ron, I should say.

See, Ron had been using the family area in the Visiting Room to make off-the-books conjugal visits with his wife for some time. His youngest child was conceived during a visit. He was super-slick about it, too. Practiced. He didn’t want to front himself off, and wasn’t ever doing anything which would’ve attracted unwanted attention. He even had the inmates who worked in the Visiting Room on his payroll; they’d let him know via facial gestures or hand singles if the cameras were on him, or if a cop was about to walk through. Ron was making a concentrated effort to keep his thing going, trying to cover all his bases.

Then Pepe happened. Dude didn’t care what Ron was going through; he had plans of his own. He was bring heat everywhere he went, and now Ron wasn’t able to hook up with his wife because Pepe was making the spot hot. The cops were watching everywhere he went, and the only place he was going was the family area. Using his kids as cover, so his wife could low-key slip him the goods.

One weekend, I came in from working out on the yard, and Ron was pacing the dorm, visibly pissed. Dude wasn’t the type to try and be polite about how he felt, either; he had a look on his face like he wanted to beat someone’s ass. He looked up when I entered the dorm, and when we made eye contact, the look on his face didn’t change. I remember in that moment, I was low-key hoping it wasn’t me he was angry with.

“Everything ok, Ron?” I wanted to be sure we were cool; mainly I was hoping I hadn’t done anything without realizing I had offended him.

“That muthafucka Pepe, man,” Ron replied. He hadn’t stopped pacing the dorm, and I could see him working his hands, opening and closing his fists so tightly, I could see his knuckles changing colors. “We out at visit, and that fool’s trying to fuck his lady right on the couch! Had the spot so hot, the pigs came and closed the area!”

I understood what the problem was: Ron was going to get some action from his wife, but Pepe’s reckless abandon had prevented that from happening. It was one thing, if Pepe wanted to run his program like he was a gangsta; it was quite another, if he was going to start screwing with other people’s routines.

You don’t have a lot when you’re in prison. Routine in itself was a comfort which you could count on, or plan your day by. You respected someone’s program, and they respected yours, as well. It was something you had, and didn’t want to lose. Something you definitely weren’t going to let someone take from you. Yet here was Pepe, stepping all over everybody’s program like it was the thing to do. He may have been a popular, but he wasn’t making any friends, the way he was acting.

“Messed up, man,” I said. “He didn’t see the cops looking?”

"Man, he didn’t give a fuck. They told him, but he wasn’t trying to hear their shit,” Ron replied. He stopped pacing and plopped down on his bunk, still working his hands opened-and-closed. No eye contact, either. He was looking at the place men go, when they’re planning something devious; when something has built up within them, no matter with a short fuse or at a snail’s pace, and they feel as if they have no other choice but to act. I could tell he was going to do something, and it’d be grand.

Ron would not disappoint.


When two different races go at it on the yard, or in the housing units, it’s pretty intense. People are going at for real; for many, it’s a chance to let out some of the steam which may have been building inside of them. For others, it maybe a psychotic urge to hurt someone, and are simply in it for the pleasure. An excuse to smash someone’s face in; to use whatever available weapons you had at your disposal and cause mayhem.

Whatever the case, there’s a lot of running around, mixed in with hitting and being hit by other people who’s skin tone and facial features don’t match your own. The potential for Ron to cause a riot was at the brim. He didn’t care what other people were thinking, or what was ok for him to do. He wasn’t about to run anything by his Shot Caller, or go to Pepe’s people, and see if he could work something out.

Nope.

Ron was going to do Ron, and everyone else could get fucked.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: No one gets away with anything in the joint. You’d better run a smooth game, because everything will come back to bite you. Pepe had crossed the line with his cockiness, and had stepped all over everyone’s program that day, including Ron’s. His blatant disregard for people’s creature-comforts may have gone by unchecked by some, but not all. Pepe had messed with the wrong guy, and the game he was playing was about to become super-real.


About an hour after Ron and I had spoken in the dorm, I was still there, only laying on my rack and reading a book. I heard the footsteps of someone entering, and looked up to see Ron heading towards his bunk. Without pause, he started grabbing stuff off of his bed and throwing it in his locker.

Uh-oh.

“Hey, B,” said Ron. He was still putting his various items away, and wasn’t looking at me as he spoke. He was on a mission.

“What’s up, Ron?” I replied. His hurried manner and the way he was looking around made me sit up on my rack and survey the housing unit. It was possible there were people who were about to rush the dorm; convicts or cops, you still wanted to know what was going on.

I didn’t see anything like that happening, however. Everything looked normal. Ron finished throwing the last of his things inside his locker, then sat down on his rack.

“Ima run upstairs, handle something real quick. Hold on to this?”

It was Ron’s cell phone.

Contrary to popular belief, they were everywhere. I remember, there was a sweep where they confiscated around 200 phones from one housing unit. To put this into perspective, a housing unit held 300 inmates at the time. Expensive, too. At the time, a flip phone you’d get for $20 at a Walmart would cost $500-600. If you wanted a smart phone, it was a smooth $1000, or higher.

Ridiculous.

“Yeah, give it,” I replied. Ron had let me use his phone in the past; helping him now would benefit me later.

“Cool. Give it to Lil D if something happen right now. He at visit.” He tossed me the phone, and I promptly deposited in the toe of one of my state-issued work boots, which I kept at the end of my rack. If something went wrong for Ron, I’d give it to his homeboy, and go on with life.

“Alright, Ron,” I said. “Be safe.” I held out my fist to give him a bump. He looked at me, smiled and gave me the dab as he stood up to leave.

“You know it, playa.”


You’re crazy, if you think I didn’t want to see what was about to happen. Yeah, I couldn’t make it obvious, but I definitely intended on seeing what was going down. Ron was heading upstairs to Pepe’s dorm, which was directly above our own. If I went and sat out in the TV area of the day room, I could angle myself in a position to act as though I was watching what was on the tube, when in reality I was peeping Ron, getting ready to handle business.

I headed towards the TV area, as there were plenty of open seats at the time. As I was sitting, I straddled the bench, in order to position my body correctly. The last thing I wanted to do was front Ron off in the middle of him committing another felony.

I could see Ron making the landing on the second tier, heading towards Pepe’s. He stopped at the entrance of the dorm and looked inside. I could tell by his mannerisms Pepe wasn’t in the dorm, and even though I couldn’t hear what he was saying, I knew he was asking Pepe’s neighbor where he was.

Seemingly getting an answer, he left the dorm, headed to the bathroom area. My eyes were able to move faster than his legs, and I quickly scanned the tier in the direction he was headed.

That’s when I saw him.

Pepe.

He was in the restroom area, where the toilets were. It was a trip, because from my vantage point, I could see Ron, hurriedly approaching Pepe, who was pulling up his zipper, and had no idea what was about to happen. Even though I wasn’t directly involved, I got the feeling of anxiousness; not for the mayhem itself, but the knowing it was about to go down like nobody’s business. Like watching the main event on pay-per-view. I got pumped.

When Ron turned the corner to the restrooms, he cracked Pepe so hard in the mouth, it sent him flying back into the toilets, and across the nasty, piss-ridden bathroom floor. He didn’t try getting up, but he was still conscious; I could tell by the low, guttural moan which was coming from somewhere inside of him.

Ron wasn’t done, however; he then went over and pulled Pepe to his feet by the front of his shirt, slammed him up against the wall, and started taking body shots. He’d let go of Pepe after a few hits, and dude would try and fall on the ground, openly groaning and whimpering at the blows he was receiving, and not really doing much in the way of defense or retaliation. Ron would pick him up and slam him into the wall again, delivering a fresh serving. This happened about three or four times, before Ron abruptly left Pepe in a bag of bones-condition, and headed back down to our dorm.


Ron had cleverly timed his attack on Pepe. During the day, yard was open, except for chow times and restricted-movement scenarios. The buildings weren’t open all day, however; they’d only open the door every five minutes on the hour. Only one CO was supposed to do the unlock, but sometimes, such as that day, the other CO’s would get up to go outside and get a breath of fresh air, or see what was happening on the yard, etc.

The norteños has been playing a basketball game against the Blacks, and Ron had seen Pepe going into the housing unit unattended. This was when he made his move. The only flaw in Ron’s plan was dude happened to be in the shitter instead of his dorm. He still managed to pull off what he’d set out to do, and in the end, that’s what it’s all about.

The Norteños didn’t make what had transpired a huge deal; Ron was backed by the Bloods, who were deep on the yard at the time, while the boys from the north were maybe a dozen people. They decided that Pepe had crossed the line, he got what he had coming, dead issue, the end. No race war, everyone’s happy.

The thing with Pepe was, dude was balling. He thought everyone loved him, everyone had his back. In reality, they didn’t love him; they loved his product.

Because of his misguided judgement in confusing the lines between friends and acquaintances, Pepe wrongly assumed he could act however he wanted, with impunity, and no one would touch him. He chose to act like an asshole, and someone pulled his card. Funny thing: I knew Ron to be a pretty reasonable guy. If Pepe would’ve been known for being a friendly, humble guy, I’m positive Ron wouldn’t have responded the way he did. Pepe had probably just rubbed my neighbor wrong one time, acting like he was the shit, and that’s all it took for Ron to form a lasting, and damaging opinion.

You never know who you’re talking to. You could be entertaining angels, or exasperating demons. Better to play life a little humble; you’ll probably end up living longer.

Bad Things Happen Quickly

Bad Things Happen Quickly

Jim Koch

Jim Koch