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Remembering Independence Day Behind Bars

Other than getting some bonerable melon, there wasn't anything good about spending Independence Day in prison. It was another ugly reminder that us inmates were missing out on the real world. Anyone we talked to outside was going to tell us about the...
Κείμενο Bert Burykill

Photo via Flickr user Thomas Galvez

For me, holidays always bring back almost fond memories of time ill spent in the clink-clink. Unbelievably, us inmates actually looked forward to the Fourth of July, if for no other reason than we got fed some highly bonerable cuisine—two burgers and two hot dogs. Convicts get really excited about this. I shied away from state meat, so I looked forward to dessert, which was sometimes watermelon or cantaloupe. I would orchestrate trades to secure these rarely offered fresh fruits, and usually I could get myself five slices of melon total. This might seem kind of silly, but devouring five slices of melon is something that someone in prison might only get to do two or three times a year. I felt the same way I would if I got some drugs or a nice bottle of wine—that feasting on the fresh fruit was beyond bonerdom for me to such an extent that I really can’t put it into words. It was like getting a shameless ice-cube rimjob from a voracious vagrant after a drawn-out battle with chocolate-bar-induced diarrhea. Whereas usually we might get either an apple or a banana a couple times during the week, the fresh juicy melon really made my year. I was lucky enough to get some fruit in packages sent from home, so I reveled in delicacies maybe more often than some, but that never stopped me from near orgasmic enjoyment when the fresh juices dripped from my deprived lips in that stankinass mess-hall.


A couple of the smaller prisons I attended at least attempted to cultivate a friendlier atmosphere, so they would do a cookout on Independence Day and actually grill the meat, which was still crappy state-prison quality and mostly made of soy, but the effort was admirable, I guess. We got either a burger or a hot dog every week normally, so except for the grilling part this wasn’t really that special, but the novelty of having both at the same time really got some guys going. In addition, we’d get a bag of chips and some pickles—some fellas would put both meats, pickles, and chips on a bun and eat that as if it were some fantastical Fourth of July culinary miracle. When all was said and done, that was it for the holiday celebration. They sure as hell weren’t going to give us fireworks.

Just like in the real world, if the holiday fell on a weekday we would get excused from classes or programs, so that felt pretty special as well. It didn’t mean much to me, ‘cause my preferred job was garbage man, and, unfortunately for me, the prison garbage collector never gets a day off. Other than the miracle fruit blessing my lips, the holiday was just another vicious pain in the ass. Another ugly reminder that we were missing out on the real world yet again. Anyone we talked to outside was just going to tell us about the parties and the fireworks or whatever, and we’re sitting in the stinkin’ clink counting off another holiday—hopefully, we’ll be able to tell ourselves, This will be the last one of these in here.


Most holidays don’t mean anything to me, as I am not religious or overly traditional in any sense of the word, but Independence Day seems to have a special ring of emptiness when applied to convicts. It’s a little oxymoronic to be celebrating the beauties of freedom and fighting for what we believe in when you’re locked up and have had your independence taken away for reasons that you very likely don’t agree with…

It breaks my heart that dudes are still getting locked up or violated for drug possession and thrown in the “box” for 23-hour lockdown if they have dirty urine in jail. Shit like that doesn’t jibe with what the holiday is supposed to be about. More than a few of our founding fathers were smoking bud, so it’s a damn shame that so many inmates are getting jammed up over it on the inside. It’s ridiculously easy to smuggle weed into prisons, and I believe the powers that be let this happen knowing that they will piss-test the shit out of everyone and catch quite a few with the dirty dick drippin’ fire. By allowing the drugs to come in and subsequently punishing people for drug use, the COs are extending the convicts’ sentences and securing upstate hillbilly jobs for the future. I’ve heard COs admit they give out tier III tickets (punishments that are handed out for “severe” infractions) in order to fuck up an inmate’s parole board chances, ‘cause the more bodies locked up, the more jobs available for Fat Randy Jenkins and the CornDog Mama. They’ll admit this to me thinkin’ we’re cool and we have the same agenda just ‘cause we’re both caucasoid, while I just smile and nod to avoid trouble.

Nowadays, I basically think of Independence Day as the melon holiday, but don’t look forward to it with the ravenous desire that I once did. It’s a pretty amazing feeling to be able to eat any kind of melon anytime and any way I want. It’s also a great relief to not have to make the dreaded holiday phone calls. It's July 4 as I write this, and I just called my parents, and I get to watch fireworks with my baby, which is some dick-up-in-the-sky romantic shit, as the kids say. I still get my pee tested, but it’s in the real world at my own convenience—no more head-cheese-eating motherfuzzy kicking my prison bunk at 6 AM. God bless America.

Bert Burykill is the pseudonym of our prison correspondent, who has spent time in a number of prisons in New York State. He tweets here.

Previously: Piss Testing Is a Failure