Going to jail

I always wonder how I would get along in a maximum-security prison. We have one of the highest prison populations in the world, and it’s growing. Assuming this rate of growth continues, it’s not totally unreasonable to think that I’ll eventually wind up in the slammer at some point in my life. And I’m not planning any violent crimes or anything, it’s just that, you never know how things are going to play out.

Like maybe one day I’ll be walking down some street. Across the way there might be three guys having what appears to be a friendly conversation. But just out of my earshot, they’ll be having a really serious, really sinister discussion. Two of those guys could be in the mafia, and the third guy might be one of most corrupt cops on the force. They could be talking about a jam they’re in, how thanks to some mob stooge the Feds are on to something.

The cops says that what they need is a patsy, someone who they can pin all the blame on, diverting attention away from the real crooks. But who would they frame? “Anybody,” the cop would say, “Literally, any nobody walking down the street. Like that guy. That guy right there. Yeah, he’s perfect. Wait here.”

And then that cop, he’ll be undercover so I won’t immediately recognize him as an officer, he’ll come up to be and say something like, “Hey wait a second buddy.” I’ll turn around, not suspecting what’s about to go down. “Yes?” And the cop will look me in the eye, take a big bag of cocaine out of his pocket, hold it up in front of him, drop it on the ground, bend down to pick it up, look me back in the eye and say, “All right pal, freeze, you’re under arrest.” Oh yeah, and he’ll push the bag into my hand before I have a chance to react, just to get my fingerprints on it.

While I’m awaiting trial, all of those mob guys will make up a bunch of nonsense, a whole fake back story, about how I’m in the mob, about how I was the head of all of these drug deals and gun smuggling and arms deals with Colombian narco-traffickers. And something about a bunch of stolen cars. And something else about racketeering. They’ll throw the book at me. They’ll write up another book because the original book won’t have enough dirt, and they’ll throw that one at me too.

The judge won’t even want to look at me. He’ll be like, “I’ve never been so disgusted with a human being as I am with you. You don’t deserve a trial because there doesn’t exist anybody low enough to consider you a peer. I don’t care if it’s unconstitutional. I’m sending you away for life. Bailiff, get this piece of garbage out of my sight.”

And I’ll struggle, I’ll beg for some further consideration, but the mob would have spent so much money and time and resources really fabricating such an intricate story. Nobody would believe me, not even my family, not even my wife. I’ll lose everything. All in exchange for a bright orange jumpsuit and a pair of government-issued laceless shoes.

Sure that’s kind of an unlikely scenario, but it’s a specific one, and it’s one that I just came up with right this second. I could think of hundreds of other random potential storylines all sharing the outcome of me be locked up for life. Maybe I’ll be lured into a pyramid scheme, and when it all comes crashing down, the guy running it will have it made to look like I was the brains behind the operation. Maybe there’s somebody out there who looks just like me, exactly like me, but he’s crazy, like really crazy, and he’s a cannibal, and just before the cops get to him, he commits suicide, but a bunch of wild animals eat the body, and so the police never find out what happened to him. Thinking he’s still alive, they keep the case open, and it eventually leads back to me, back to being wrongfully accused, back to jail.

My point is, I think that if I had to go to jail, I’d probably do OK. I’m really good at getting along with all different sorts of people, and while the other prisoners might be skeptical of me at first, I’m confident that I could win them over with my offbeat charm, magnetic personality, and award winning smile. Maybe during arts and crafts hour I’d lead everybody in making homemade replicas of some of America’s favorite board games, and then I’d organize a massive prison-wide board game night. And they’d become so wildly popular, everybody having so much fun, that in-prison violence and rape would drop dramatically, almost to zero. No, definitely to zero. The whole place would turn around.

And then the warden would be doing a tour of the facilities, and he’d say to himself, “My God, this prison has never looked better, and all thanks to what, a couple of board games? Just imagine what we could do if we gave them board games, real board games, not just those rudimentary homemade copies. Let’s do it. Somebody go out and buy me three hundred Scrabbles. And get a couple of Monopolies while you’re at it.”

And eventually that judge that sentenced me to life would hear about my impact on the prison. He probably wouldn’t hear about it directly, but one day his wife will be watching the Lifetime channel and there’ll be a made for TV movie about me inspiring the whole cell block to get along. And the judge will be so moved that he’ll reverse the sentence. I’ll be a free man.

But I’ll choose to stay. Why leave such a close knit community? I’ll have made some real friends behind bars. And the judge will look at the warden all confused, shaking his head, “Well if he wants to stay, I guess there’s nothing we can do.”

And everything will be going great, until one day I’ll get a package. It’ll be a cake. I’ll be so excited I’ll dig right in. The other prisoners will try to stop me, which I’ll think unusual, because jealousy and fighting will have been eliminated completely. But they won’t be jealous, they’ll be warning me, because every prisoner knows that all cakes sent to inmate have little saws baked inside, to use for escape plans. But I won’t have known, and I’ll have been so hungry I wouldn’t have noticed it going down.

And after I die all of the guards and staff and the warden will expect the prison to descend back into chaos without my soothing effect on the population. But everything will be OK. They’ll remember, the board games, the game nights, it’s going to stick, it’s going to be a permanent solution. And so, yeah, I don’t think it would be so bad if I got sent to prison. I mean, I wouldn’t want to go to jail, but just in case I ever found myself locked up, I think I would do fine.

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