FROM NASSAU COUNTY JAIL

Dear Renato,

You ask what kind of place this is. Well, maximum security, to start with.  Nobody has ever escaped!  Between me and freedom, are at least twelve locked barred gates, many of them manned remotely by officers in bullet-proof glass rooms. No daylight. None! No fresh air! None! No darkness, ever ~ lights on 24 hours a day. Almost never quiet, the yelling, loud music and the clang of doors contrast with the sharp tapping of keys.

Living in a tiny box 23 hours a day, with no exercise, no weather, no reality, fluorescent light glaring down, it's like something out of 1984 or 2001!

Modern, yes, not Dickensian one bit. But heartless, cold and functional, cold cold stone and hard hard steel bars, no wood anywhere, cold hard tile walls, no privacy, on view like monkeys at the zoo 24 hours a day.

Frightening. The violence is always there, lurking just below the surface. Sometimes it erupts, and then blood is everywhere, staining floors and walls with its startling redness contrasted to the cold unemotional concrete and steel, and someone goes to the hospital to be patched up.

Remotely temperature-controlled, always the same. Whether a foot of snow outside, or a blazing hot August day, you never know it inside, we live like laboratory animals, not knowing, and unreal, physically and emotionally, like a vision of the future, but a dark and horrible vision of what the future holds.

Para-military. Obey orders instantly, and without complaining. Do what they tell you, even if it's wrong. Don't step out of line, or risk the dreaded "lock-in". Do this. Do that. Dress. Undress. Go here. Go there. Move it!

Humiliation. Degradation. Deliberate putting-down. Cruel and deliberate meanness of some (fortunately not many) officers. Arbitrary orders. Heartless commands that trample feelings underfoot. Sudden inspection shake-downs by SWAT teams, looking for weapons and drugs, but in the process overturning treasured personal possessions, often in a calculatedly unpitying manner.

Oppressive. Depressive. Terrorifying at times. Distressing. Wearisome. Frustrating. No individuality. No liquor. No sex. No Love. No care for fellow-man. Pervading sense of unreality (because no weather, no trees, no flowers, no air). Deflated persona, reduced to a cipher with attendant loss of self-esteem by everything, but especially by wearing only shapeless blue cotton uniforms so you blend into the faceless mass.

Virtually no personal possessions. Strictly limited number of books and magazines. No razors, scissors, even table knives, eat like a baby with one spoon for everything. Bad institutional food, and never enough of it. Always a gnawing sense of hunger. You cannot fill up with food from the inmate Commissary, because it's only once a week with spending limited, and either you don't have enough money to spend, or else it's a choice between communication (paper, pens, carbon, stamped envelopes, file folders and suchlike), or coffee and cake, and communication always wins out in that battle, because the mail must go through.

Mail is a desperate, vital life-line to the outside, to sanity, to the real world out there, to people that matter, people that care about you, and ~ sometimes ~ even love you. Mail-call every morning is the greatest high-spot of the day, raising your spirits if letters from friends are there, casting one into the fearsome depths if nobody bothered to write that day.

With the food so unappetizing, so tepid or even downright cold (because served nearly an hour after it's cooked), all jumbled together on a tiny stainless-steel plate, cake, cabbage, and kielbasa interfolded on one another, with bread soaked in dirty cabbage-water, you lose weight constantly, down 30 to 40 pounds in just a few months, uniform waist-size ever-dropping.

Impersonal unconcerned medical service ~ when the doctor is "in" ~ you could easily die if you were struck with appendicitis or a heart attack. Even worse dental work, no repairs or construction, only tooth pulling so you lose a tooth forever, and a seven day wait at times even for that.

Visits are wonderful, but unbearably short. And when the warm visitor leaves, the repression returns ~ instantly! Strip search! Completely nude, check mouth, ears, hair, underarms, soles of feet and rear end, and every piece of clothing and shoes. Ultimately humiliating and degrading, treated like a thing, not a person.

So what is jail like, you ask?

Inhuman, unreal, impersonal, frightening, diminishing, cruel, heartless ~ like every prison movie you ever saw, except not dark, dingy and dirty, but ~ on the contrary ~ intimately sterile, bare, super-clean, over-bright, glacial, frigid in every sense. 1984 is here already!

And for what reason is all this punishment? (For, mark my words, being here is punishment, even though I am guilty of no crime, just as in all totalitarian countries.)

Just because I looked after, loved and cared for several boys over a number of years, boys who were my good friends as I was theirs; and allegedly allowed that love to develop naturally into physical affection (for, remember, here in Amerika hugging is against the law).

They're supposedly being "protected".  From what? And from whom?

They neither want to be, nor did they ask to be "protected" from their grown-up friends. They only want to be protected from the efflorescent evil of over-ambitious detectives and DA's who seek promotion, publicity, and political advancement with utter disregard for the kids' feelings or the ruination of their lives.

For boys and men alike, police intervention into their friendships is a total disaster, even if, later, charges are dismissed. The damage to both is irreparable. Nevertheless, of course, I hope this harm is minimized by the authorities dropping this senseless prosecution of my friends and myself and avoiding the many many months of media-sensationalized show- trials that will otherwise be the inevitable, ghastly and traumatic result.

Let us pray that this, at least, can be achieved.

Affectionally,

Martin

from The NAMBLA Bulletin, Vol. 3, No. 4 (May, 1982), Pg. 4.

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