In 1997, I found myself in “Old Folsom,” a violent maximum-security prison in northern California. Even though I’d been a drug dealer and grew up in violent environments, I still had to endure the learning curve of prison.
Being in prison for the first time is like being thrown into a swimming pool that has no shallow end.
You have to constantly watch your surroundings. While you’re watching others, they’re watching you. Many inmates can smell weakness like a shark smells an infinitesimal amount of blood thousands of feet away.
And if the wrong people think you’re weak, you’re in deep shit. …
During my first night at Folsom state prison, I and 10 other inmates were walking to a cafeteria when we saw an 80-foot-long trail of blood.
An inmate had been stabbed and his lifeblood was a horrific reminder of the brutality of prison.
Fights, stabbings, and robberies occurred frequently. Many of the concrete walls inside the cell blocks were lined with bullet holes from violent outbursts that tragically ended with gunfire.
My current life is very different from the old one. I now walk past long, evenly contoured, remarkably clean walls as I make my way to a joint application development session, a subject matter expert interview for a user guide, or a morning Scrum meeting. …