NOTES FROM PRISON:
Kelvin McManus and the Elephant
Gary Brooks Waid
*Confidential Informants are felons who have decided against going to jail. They work for the feds busting people - mostly the young - to pay off their debt. They are, by and large, a dishonorable lot who seem to "witness" an awful lot of crime.
I’m a convict doing nine years on a pot charge. I live at Texarkana FCT and get to do favors occasionally for my friends – just like Mr. Tucker used to do when he was the Governor. For instance, I recently typed out an appeal for my neighbor across the hall in cell 318. His name is Kelvin McManus, and when he was seventeen he introduced a C.I. (confidential informant*) to a homeboy in Baton Rouge who subsequently sold him some crack. For the introduction, Kelvin was paid $800 by the government snitch. He was then arrested and thrown in jail, and because he decided against blabbing and screwing around talking about the neighborhood (something which Jim Guy also did, by the way, and is ADMIRED for), they gave him a sentence of sixteen years in prison, none of it suspended. He was, like many in here, penalized for showing character.
Kelvin had never been in trouble before. He’d never seen the inside of a police station or stolen a car or painted the neighborhood with graffiti or ruined his liver with expensive booze. He’d never even lied: “I did it,” he said. But they gave him an extended stay in prison and he has begun the process of becoming a zoo animal. He will walk out the door at thirty-something with no life skills and no chance to be normal or have a normal family.
His crime was not worth millions and millions, and he did not force the feds to spend a lot of time and energy by pleading innocent and insisting on a trial like Jim Guy did. In the real world that behavior causes the prosecutor to seek MORE time for the bastard who would make his life a pain in the butt. Young Kelvin listened to his court-appointed advisor who told him he would upset people and receive life sentences unless he accepted the sixteen years and signed the paperwork. And Kelvin has trouble with the logic of it all.
“Why?” he asked me one day. (I’m older, after all, and white like Jim Guy; maybe he thought I’d have a plausible answer or some sort of logical idea.)
“Geeze, Kelvin, I said, and sighed like a man who was forced to suffer fools. “There’s lots of reasons, plenty of good reasons, but mostly it’s because you’re a nigger.
And Kelvin showed that he has a quick mind. “Yas’suh. You sho is smart Massa Gary,” he said.
Most of us understand that poor people deserve more punishment. And we all know about Latins and Indians and the like. But guys like Kelvin just don’t respect traditional values. They should know that being sentenced to sixteen years for picking your nose because you’re Black is not necessarily racist. It’s just bad luck. I mean, if Jim Guy were Black, I’m sure he would have gotten some time for running off with three-million dollars earmarked for widows and orphans or whatever, but only because of the esthetics involved.
The policy is not racist, it’s color-coded. It has to do with décor. Jim Guy would not look presentable in a prison setting and doubtless would be a lousy first baseman on the softball team. We gotta have niggers for that. The fact is, Kelvin McManus will be supported while Jim Guy Tucker must make way on his own and be forced to go easy on the adult drinkables while his new liver warms to the prospect of living in such a dubious gut.
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