This article originally appeared on VICE Australia. When you go to prison, all you take inside are the shoes on your feet. And if you happen to enter with something like rare Nikes that aren’t on the canteen buy-up list, chances are you’ll attract unwanted attention. You might even get robbed, which is ironic for anyone who gets locked up for robbing.
Second-century Roman poet Juvenal asked the question: “But who will guard the guards?” This is a question that has been discussed by the likes of Plato, as he considered the actions of people in power. Prisoners often form their own unspoken hierarchies, acquiring authority by preying on new inmates to gain power. I wanted to invert Juvenal’s proposition, in the context of prison life and ask: “But who steals from the thieves?”
So I called some people who had spent time in prison for charges relating to theft and asked them to detail the first time they were stolen from.
Aggravated Home Invasion
I remember throwing a glass and hitting someone in the face at a strip club in Dandenong, Australia. Then I bolted out of there, ended up downing some Xannies, and woke up in some random’s house. The cops weren’t too happy about the whole situation. So I was put in lock-up with a guy coming down hard off of meth. He was wearing a stained Everlast T-shirt that looked older than me. He started getting weird, saying shit like, “The cops put you in here to work me out. I’m not a cooked cunt. You think I am but I’ve been in the system before.” I started getting really bad anxiety, and the doctors knew because it was in my file. So I told the officers I needed my meds. But the guy in the stained shirt overheard me.
I wasn’t even thinking and all of a sudden, his eyes lit up and he became my best friend. “Sorry, I get all worked up. You know what it’s like; everyone's a fucking dog these days. What are you here for? You look like a good guy. Let me get you some water or make you a cup of blah blah blah.” This cunt wouldn’t shut up.
A day or so later, I get my meds, and I could feel his eyes on me. An hour passed, and he didn’t say a word, and then suddenly he was like, “You alright? You get your medication all sorted out?” I just nodded and acted like I was busy reading. There was a part of me that wanted to just give him two so it wouldn’t be awkward, but I knew he would just keep hassling me so I thought I’d bite the bullet and just have him pissed off at me and get over it. Then it hit around 8 PM, and I could feel the tension in the cell. I was trying to move cells, but I couldn’t because I was on the next bus to the remand center.
When the officer locked us in, the guy got up immediately. “So you’re a piece of shit after all? I thought we’d be friends. I tried to do the right thing, but you’re a fucking snake like the rest of them.” So I asked him if it was about my meds and he just smashed me in the eye. I don’t even remember the punch. I just remember him scrunching up his face and then he was standing over me yelling—“Where are they? Was it worth it? You did this. I tried helping you; I wanted to be friends!” He literally downed half the packet at once and went back to bed as if nothing happened. Then I buzzed out of there and got put in a protection unit.
I had been locked up in Adelaide prison, but Melbourne was different. The officers here are just more treacherous cunts, so I played dumb like it was my first time. I minded my business and kept my head down. I could’ve kicked it with the Muslims, but I just didn’t want to get in trouble, so I stayed away and just did my own thing. I like to be good with everyone.
But after about a month in, my buy-ups start going missing. Things I knew I bought from the canteen slowly started disappearing. We only get about $180 a month, so we know how to spend it. We don’t have a lot in jail so what we do have is worked out to a tee. The final straw was when they started stealing my Sucuk, which is a kind of Middle Eastern sausage. And, yes, you can get Sucuk in Melbourne jails. So when they stole it, I played it smart. I didn’t mention it to the boys or anything. I just acted dumb, but really I was scheming.
So for the next buy-up, I just stuck around all my shit at all times. I watched my cell like a hawk and asked the most religious Muslim if he had time to chat. I asked him to sneak into my room the next day because I wanted to go into the yard to hang around for a bit. But I told the brother that whoever came into my cell would be trying to get me. So then I waited around in the yard until I heard some commotion. As soon as I heard yelling, I ran into my cell and saw the thief there. I pressed him about what he had done, and then I took all his shit.
I arrived in the Melbourne Remand Centre after I got caught in Bacchus Marsh with a stolen car. I’d been losing myself to drug addiction, and I was literally blowing all my government assistance at the slot machines. When you go into remand, they let you keep the shoes you got arrested in, and I had a fresh pair of black and white Air Max. I was a bit nervous on the first day. I thought it would be grim—cunts getting stabbed in the eye and shit. But it was different. People were friendly and quiet. Maybe because they were all nervous.
There was this Islander with a horrible attitude; he was walking around the yard mocking everyone. I was trying not to make eye contact, but I caught it for like half a second, and he came walking over. But he was walking in a really excessive way like I knew he was about to go off on me. Then he plants his foot next to mine and goes, “Shot.” I had no idea what the fuck he was going on about. He goes, “Shot bro.” I laughed it off and walked away and he just started swearing and yelling at me. Later that night, I was cooking some food in the unit to take back to my cell. I saw the guy walk past again, and as I walked into my room, he quickly rushed in behind me while his friend stood at the door. He started yelling, “Kick em' over ya dog,” so I started taking my shoes off. But I wasn’t thinking because I suddenly threw my hot food in his face. He went ballistic. He started punching and kicking me. I just covered my head the best I could. His friend started stomping on me, and then they stole my pillows. It’s weird how everyone else acts after something like that happens; they just talk to you like nothing has happened at all. And now, the Islander guy just walks around in my shoes all the time—and everyone knows. But it’s just another day at the office.
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