The Intake Process: How Did the Africans Who Were Enslaved Here Become Americans?

Part 1.

By ErbnArt

You’d be surprised at how happy some mfs can be to see Rikers Island. 

Let’s say you got arrested in Harlem, on a Thursday night. You’ll sit in a local precinct where they’ll take your shoestrings and belt from you so you won’t hang yourself with them while in custody. You’ll be held here in a cell until sometime Friday, then be taken to the Manhattan Detention Center, or ‘central bookings’. Central bookings is where newly detained defendants are held for arraignment by a judge after an initial arrest. 

Since it’s Friday, and courts are closed on weekends, if you don’t get called to see a judge for arraignment before the end of the business day (which you won’t; just trust me), that means your ass will sit here, in a cell no larger than 6×12 feet, occupied by as many adult men as can be physically forced into that space. Until Monday. 

Guess what though… Monday is a holiday lil buddy. Yep, you’re going to be here until at least Tuesday now. I know; believe me, I know. Smgdh, right?

 There’s a single open-stall aluminum toilet bowl, beneath a small sink/water fountain whose basin is weirdly shaped like the “S” on Superman’s chest. The toilet has been clogged with feces for hours. The detainees have since been urinating into that small sink. No one is drinking from that fountain.

Over the weekends, these cells are standing room only, like Trump so desperately wishes his inauguration had been. The only people who get room to breath here are the ones who know how to demand it. Hard concrete benches offer little space to stretch out on, but “My nigga, I need to lay tf down, so you need to go find you a spot on the floor somewhere”.

The smell is of course often nauseating. Not only because of the clogged toilet, or the pissy sink, but also because there are homeless people here. From mentally-ill ex-military veteran vagrants, to chemically addicted derelicts. The odor assaulting your nostrils is being continually concocted by the combination of filthy asses and athlete’s feet belonging to the unbathed dredges of society who occupy these cells with you. They come here way more frequently than you, and for various reasons. Voluntarily at times, or at least of their own volition; sometimes just to get the unchewable but still free bologna sandwiches served 3 times a day with a cup of watery Kool-aid. For that, and/or a chance to sleep indoors. 

Some of the people here had been arrested; others however, were actually rescued.

All the genuine criminals are here as well. Killers and rapists. Burglars and thieves. There’s a drug kingpin in the corner that the Bloods have already latched onto with an extortion scheme; you can hear him barking into the only payphone, “Bitch stop fuckin playin’ with me right, on some real shit… Fuck you mean call my baby mother…look can you please just go get that money from…” fretfully arranging a hasty ransom payment for his new ‘homies’.

A corporate executive is here, being detained currently for his 5th DUI; this time he actually hit someone. He’s curled up pitifully into a painful fetal position now, beneath the awning of the concrete bench, nursing several recently and ruthlessly broken ribs. You can hear him sobbing as he finally sobers up. There’s a crackhead who is also an ex-professional boxer seated on the bench directly above him.

The crackhead is wearing the wretched executive’s Rolex, his expensive Italian leather shoes, and his fancy silk dress socks. The executive is releasing his probably bruised bladder right now, steaming urine is leaking through Nordstrom’s twill cotton trousers onto the cold grey marble floor. 

If the C.O.’s don’t come get this guy, he’s in for another beating. He’s too afraid to call them. They ain’t comin.

Just like Tuesday couldn’t come soon enough for you. I know how it feels; by now, you fucking stink…  through a kind of gross osmosis facilitated by close proximity, the complete and total lack of any ability to bathe or brush teeth, and a ventilation system that hasn’t worked properly since it was installed in the Reagan administration.

Unfortunately, things in the courtroom didn’t exactly go your way, either. You’ve been indicted and are now being detained until your next pending court appearance, which the obviously irritated Judge set for 6 weeks from today. “6 fuckin weeks from today??” you’re thinking… 

“Come on, step to the left”. The bailiff is instructing you to exit the courtroom.

You’re shuffled back to that cell now. The whole process took a total of 7 minutes. It took longer for you to walk to the courtroom than it did for you to have an entirely legal proceeding, where custody of your body was just taken, and is now being held – indefinitely by the City of New York. The public defender representing you registered no emotion, let alone concern. No bail was set. That means you’re on your way to the infamous Rikers Island now. 

Kool G Rap, one of the original gangster rappers, made a whole fuckin song about this jail on his debut album, for Christs’ sakes. You can hear the lyrics in the back of your head right fuckin now.

 “…You won’t be smilin’ on Ri-kers Island…

 Don’t worry, It’s only 9:45 am. The first go-back to the Island won’t happen until at least  3 pm. You have time to mentally prepare yourself for this, right?

Nope. The corporate exec folded up under the bench apparently just made bail. The CO’s have come to collect him now, and upon finding him in his piss-stained, bare-footed, rib-broken condition, they immediately commence to randomly beat on the other detainees until the crackhead boxing champ eventually offers up the Italian shoes and silk socks. 

The CO’s are going to have to force feed him an enema to get that Rolex back, though. 

Now the cell is cleared and all detainees are relocated to other holding areas. You make it into the go-back pens that hold detainees who are on their way to Riker’s in a few hours. By now, destination notwithstanding, you’re actually relieved to be leaving central bookings, aren’t you?

The ride from the central booking facility, located at 1 Police Plaza in lower Manhattan, to Rikers, takes about 35 minutes depending on traffic. The Island is technically located in the Bronx. To get there, you have to cross the county line approaching it from the coast of east Elmhurst, Queens NY, across the 4,200 feet of architectural loneliness that we used to call “the Bridge of Pain”.

Stuffed like sardines into a school bus that was retrofitted to be a more intimidating Department of Corrections vehicle, 50 detainees including you are seated quietly, cuffed at the wrists and the ankles, shackled to one another at the waist. It’s only quiet because in the cockpit of the bus, if that’s what you call it, separated from the inmates by a rusted yet still impenetrable locked iron gate, there are 2 NYC DOC officers, each armed with loaded semi automatic handguns. To be sure, although it’s not visible, there’s a pistol-grip pump action .12 gauge riot shotgun within arm’s reach, undoubtedly loaded with buckshot, which at short range in the close bus cabin would deliver gruesomely lethal force. One of these CO’s is driving, the other is standing guard.

All military and law-enforcement officers, from Navy Seals to traffic cops, have to pass a psychological examination before they can be considered for induction. Meaning, you have to fit a certain psychological profile to even become a soldier, a policeman, or a correction officer. 

Based on my experience with these two latter professions, and considering their history of interaction with the populations they get paid by taxpayer’s dollars to serve, I personally think an inordinate and extreme capacity for being a relentless and unabridged asshole must be the primary quality sought for in prospective law enforcement recruits.

Corrections Officers are just assholes, as a general rule; in the words of a great and historical idiot, “it is what is is”. Although a predominantly Caucasian cadre of casually callous comrades to be certain, much like America itself, the rank and file is a study of diversity, filled by every minority imaginable, while getting progressively whiter as one ascends in rank. The ones who drive the buses that ferry detainees to and from the Island are usually of the minority type. 

Unknown to you, this whole time, the process of dissociating you from your ego is already under way. 

This is your first time going through this. You still feel like yourself, but you’re confused, frustrated. You smell like a hot bag of garbage; you feel crumpled and disheveled. Tired. Exhausted, actually, yet weirdly alert. Your flight or fight mode has been stuck in the “on” position for the last 120 consecutive hours, and there’s nowhere to run. You’re dehydrated and starving. You have no idea what else to expect.

Your bus arrives outside of a stone white bungalow type building. After walking in a single file, into a room where there is a cluster of small cells separated by boroughs, you’re sent into the “Manhattan” pen, and you turn towards the gate after it’s slammed shut and locked. You see prominently displayed on the wall behind the intake sergeant’s desk a graffiti painted sign that reads: “C-74, Adolescents At War!!”

You realize that you are now in “the 4 building”, the most notorious adolescent/adult male detention facility that’s ever been heard of by anyone. Congratu-fuckin-lations, my dude. 

The dissociative process has just kicked into high gear; again without any awareness on your part

The CO’s call your name, remove your hand cuffs and shackles, and walk you down a hallway into another room. Here there is an x-ray machine through which runs a conveyor belt. You’re instructed to strip down naked. All of your clothing and jewelry is sent through the machine for inspection. As you stand with your back to the wall, alongside several other undressed detainees, the CO now begins to give instructions.

Face me. 

Open your mouth. 

Tilt your head. 

Say aaah.  

Close your mouth. 

Raise your arms. 

Put them down. 

Grab your nuts and lift your sac. 

Let it go. 

Now turn around. 

Hands on the wall. 

Lift one foot at a time. 

Spread your legs. 

Bend down and spread your cheeks. 

Cough two times. 

Stand up and face me. 

Now go take a shower convict; you stink.

The shower water is icy cold. You wash frantically using a bare white washcloth and a bar of state soap. The lye content in this particular brand of Corcraft soap, manufactured by federal inmates somewhere else in America, is so high and concentrated that this soap is also used to bleach white clothing. You’re given a pair of white boxers and a white tee shirt. If you know somebody you might get a pair of socks. You get an orange jumpsuit with the letters DOC written on the back, a pair of orange canvas no-name-brand sneakers, and a bedroll containing plain white twin sheets (none fitted) extra toiletries, a green plastic mug, and a grey-ish black woolen blanket that feels like it was made from a mammoth’s pubes.

As you walk back to the holding cell, you overhear another detainee saying you all should be housed in a dormitory and in a bed pretty soon. “A bed“, you think, with unexpected relief. You’ve been in this building for 6 hours undergoing this intake process, but fuck it; you’ll have a bed soon. 

See? I told you; some mfs be happy as fuck to get to the Island. Weird, right?

Catching a glimpse of yourself in the translucent reflection of a window, you realize finally that who you see isn’t really you. It’s who they just made you. You were a detainee a few minutes ago. You’re an inmate now. They took everything of yours, from your shoestrings to your dignity. For the next 6 weeks, really until you see that judge again and he says otherwise, you’re the property of New York City. You’ve been absorbed by an American institution like an unsuspecting Starfleet shipthat was set upon by the Borg. 

You, my friend, have finally been ASSIMILATED. Resistance is futile… Or is it?

 End of Part 1


Published by wehateithere7

I detect a distinct lack of authenticity in the current conversations on race relations in America. I don't hear who's voice accurately reflects my perspective. So I'll do it myself.

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