It was the longest night of my life.

When the prison guard locked us in the cell for the night, I knew that sleep would be out of the question because in about five hours, I was going to escape—-or at least try to. Along with four other brothers from out of DC, we had put together an escape plan that we felt would land us on the other side of the fence.


Ever since one of my childhood friends, Dan, had gotten killed in the prison a few months earlier, I had started to contemplate escaping. All of my appeals had been denied in court and I was angry at the “Scandal” among my homies. This was perhaps the only time I was upset with my homies because the killing of Dan had gone against everything we believed in. It was a iron-clad rule that no beefs from the streets would be carried on in the joint because we had to stick together. The fed joint in Petersburg Virginia was known as “gladiator school” and it lived up to its reputation. Gang wars were a fact of life there and everything was “geographical” meaning your whole life revolved around your set.  Whatever state you were from, that is who you hung with. That was your family and if one of you fought, the whole set fought. DC was the powerhouse because there were so many of them.


Anyway, we always knew when we were getting a new homeboy in because of the transfer sheet so when Dan gets there, another homeboy comes to me and tells me that he is about to do something that the other homies “are not going to like”. I didn’t do my homework! As the shot-caller for the NC crew, I should have investigated more since whatever he had planned would involve the crew, but I assumed that it had something to do with the beef we had had with Virginia. Even though we had handled that, I assumed that he was going to start it up again, so I told him to do whatever he had to do and that I had his back. I regretted that decision.


Dan hit the yard on Friday evening. Me and Dan had met in The Youth Center but what made me and Dan so close was that our dads had been friends. Another thing that should have alerted me that something was up was that the homey and his brother joined the Nation of Islam. I found that odd because he never mentioned it to me, but he knew that once he did what he had planned that the homies would retaliate so in order not to be out there “butt-naked”, he joined the Muslims, knowing they would watch his back since he was a part of their team. That was a smart move, but I was asleep at the wheel and missed everything although all the signs were there.


On Sunday, about ten of us left the chow hall together, Dan among us. When we got to the block where I stayed, I saw the homey sitting on a bench in front of the cellblock with a raincoat on. It was July and the sun was shining. He also had a newspaper under his arm.  I went in the block to brush my teeth. I hadn’t even finished when one of the crew rushed to my room, yelling that something had happened. I rush out of the dorm and see Dan lying on the ground. He was shaking and everyone thought he was having a seizure but I knew better, so I turn him over on his back and I see the hole in his chest. I immediately knew he had been stabbed with an icepick. I dash into the block and pick up the phone and dial the number that I know will bring the goon squad. I needed to get Dan to the hospital and once they had removed Dan, I tell the homies to “strap up”. We were going to war. However I thought it was DC. We had had a beef earlier that morning over the pool table. Even though the beef had been squashed  I now thought they had reneged on their word and this was their way of getting back, but one of them said that they had observed Dan walk around the building with the homey wearing the raincoat. Then, everything became clear. Now, there would be more bloodshed We would have to kill our own.


When Dan died about an hour later, what made it even more sad is that his girlfriend had come to visit and they had to tell her that Dan was dead. I was furious. They locked the prison down and the feds came in to investigate the crew from Charlotte. They knew it was a beef from the street because Dan had only been in prison for two days and didn’t know anyone except the crew.


Once the feds had left, the yard opened back up and we bum-rushed the block where the homie stayed, but both he and his brother were locked up. Tensions were so high that attempts were made to poison his food but there was no way to isolate his food.


Back to the escape. I knew sleep would be out of the question so I listened to the radio, did pushups, everything to calm my nerves. I was afraid although not afraid in a scared way. I was afraid in the way that men are afraid when they know they might get killed.


This was Ramadan and the prison escorted the Muslims to the chow hall for the early morning meal about three in the morning. I was not Muslim then but I still fasted. At 2:30, I wrapped my entire body in Ace bandages until I looked like a mummy. I didn’t want to get cut by the razor sharp wire on the 12 foot fence.  I packed my backpack, filling it with some water and some Little Debbie cakes. For some crazy reason, I packed my hairbrush and comb.  Of course I packed my knife. I wanted to take my bow and arrows! I knew for a fact that I was the only one in the joint with a bow and arrows. There were a few guys who had guns, but no one had a bow and arrows but me.

When the door opened, we only had ten minutes to get out of the dorm. We  removed a big picture glass window and climbed on the roof. Other guys replaced the window. Though it was only September, it was cold up on that roof and it was wet. We had to lie face-down in the wet gravel until the coast was clear. We waited and waited. We were waiting on our ride which was supposed to flash its headlights at 3:30 so we could start moving. The car was supposed to have guns and money and fake identification. The time came and went. No car. Now, we had a problem. We couldn’t get back in the building and now we had no transportation.

It was a two story building, but damn it looked like ten when you were looking down. We had to jump. From the ground looking up, it didn’t look that bad, but being up there was a different story. I didn’t want to sprain or break my ankles so I slid down to the end of the building while the others jump and I knocked on the window of a friend from New York. When he came to the window, I motioned for him to open his window. These windows rolled out in layers and I was able to climb down like I was on a ladder and as luck would have it, the guy in the bottom cell already had his window opened. So I made it to the ground with having to jump.

Once on the ground, we crawled on our bellies to where we had a set of bolt-cutters stashed. We cut through the first fence. It was dark and cold and we were all breathing hard. We made it to the second fence. Our car still had not arrived. We had no choice but to go on. We were huddled in the dark, discussing our next move. Did we split up or did we stay together? We didn’t really look to have any problem getting out the prison because we had found out which guards towers were empty. My crime partner was cool with a white dude who worked in the administration building and he had mentioned to my partner that once the yard closed for the night that the guards in those gun towers would be brought out of the towers since it would be a waste of manpower to leave them there since the yard was closed. I had put my partner on the white dude to find out just what gun tower would be empty because that would be the part of the fence where we would make our exit. We couldn’t be stopped if the gun tower was empty.

As soon as we started to cut through the fence, huge floodlights lit up the night and a voice crackled over a microphone. “As-Salaam-Alaikum, we have you surrounded—-give up!” And they did, but we had gone too far to stop now. We hit the fence anyway. Now, I was glad I had wrapped my body up. Everything slowed down. When they starting shooting it sounded like Vietnam. I could see the red tracers lighting up the night and I could hear the bullets hitting the fence. I got caught in the barbed wire and had to use my knife to cut myself free. We hit the ground running.

Anyway when we get busted, the Judge did not want to give us any more time because it came out that the prison knew a week in advance about our  escape. He said they needlessly put our lives in danger since they could have prevented the escape by simply locking us in preventive detention. Anyway I got another year added to my sentence and got transferred to a prison in Oxford Wisconsin where it was colder than I thought possible. As soon as I got there, I starting planning another escape.