Bert has been in and out of prison his entire adult life for petty drug offenses. While trying to live inside the law, Bert finds that he might not be able to overcome his self-diagnosed disease: the disease of dumbness. In part two of Jailbert, we watch as Bert tries to move on with his life after his latest incarceration.
Dying of a Dirty Mouth
I’ve got an announcement: I’m finishing up a survival guide for how to survive in prison to be published as an as-real book. This book is for any man or woman in search of the answers before they even know the questions. Most people don’t plan on going to jail, but when you do get sent up clink-clink creek without a paddle, it’s important to be informed, just in case. Prior preparation prevents poor performance.
First off, it’s essential that you learn the art of “fronting” in prison. I remember early on in my first bid I read Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full and some young white-kid character gets thrown in jail and an OG OT (old-timer) advises this kid to “use de mouf,” or something along those lines, which basically means talk a big game and act like you run shit. You will be able to get respect if you appear confident. Even an ugly motherfuzzy can survive if he’s got a mean mouth game.
Jail culture is also all about physical appearances. Lots of dudes spend hours every day grooming or hitting the weights. It’s just human nature to give a guy who’s clearly in good shape a little more respect, and an ugly, unkempt bum will have a serious disadvantage from the jump. At least wash your ass and brush your teeth.
Don’t think appearance matters? I once saw an old man get killed in prison for having bad breath.
He was Puerto Rican, but we called him Miyagi ‘cause he had a very Asian look and resembled Pat Morita. Unfortunately, his mouth was completely decayed and smelled like sweltering garbage. He was the type of dude who would stink up a whole dorm with his breath when he went to sleep, even if he brushed his teeth. Poor guy had some serious halitosis. We were in a bullshit box in the Bronx for work-release violators; quarters were tight, and none of us appreciated the funk emanating from Miagi’s mouth.
After reading articles like “Don’t Stick Dominoes in Your Dick” and “’Ruff Buttlove’ and Other Prison Raps,” we knew that Bert Burykill, our prison correspondent, would translate well to video. Drugs remain a problem for Bert, and he consistently fails urine tests which send him back to jail over and over again. In this two-part series, we examine Bert in his most vulnerable state as he tries to stay on the straight and narrow.
Part two will air Monday, April 22.
Prisons I’ve Known and Yelped
I was kicked off Yelp probably about 15 times. Some folks got excited about Yelp reviews for prisons this week, but I’m the ORIGINAL prison reviewer, along with some guy named Craig who did a nice review of Rikers four years ago and who probably got kicked off too. I still love Yelp, but they did Bert B., Barry B., Bobby B., Bertha B., and all my other names dirty back then. I guess it was a combination of my incendiary reviews and sex-trollish behavior in the talk forums that did me in.
The prisons I’ve visited in my time include Saratoga, Clinton, Washington, Downstate, Ulster, Elmira, Lakeview, Auburn, Moriah, Clinton Annex, Lyon Mountain, Hale Creek, Edgecombe, Lincoln, Fulton, Queensboro, Oneida, Watertown, Riverview, Riker’s, and Valhalla. I only spent a day at a few, and a couple years at others, but I got to savor all their flavors, some more than others, so I figure I’ll give an honest review to a few.
We Spoke to Barret Brown from Prison
Since my initial piece on Barrett Brown about a month ago, there has been a small development in his case. Barrett, of course, is the journalist who is popularly mislabeled as a spokesperson for Anonymous and is facing a century of hard time in a federal prison for threatening an FBI officer, hiding evidence that obstructed his warrant, and sharing a link within an IRC chat room that contained the stolen credit card information of Stratfor customers (a security company that had 5 million of its internal emails stolen from them). While Barrett is still sitting in a federal prison waiting to see a judge, news broke last night that Barrett Brown’s mother pled guiltyto her own charge of obstructing a search warrant. She hid Barrett’s computers from the FBI and is now facing $100,000 in fines and six months of probation.
In addition, Jeremy Hammond, the hacker who is accused of actually hacking into Stratfor has been sitting in prison for 13 months without trial. His case was further delayed when it was discovered that the original judge who was appointed to try Jeremy is the wife of a man whose data was compromised by the Stratfor hack.
A couple of weeks ago, Barrett Brown called me from prison to talk to me about his case. We discussed the winding intricacies of his story in two 15-minute bursts, which was all the time the restrictions of his imprisonment would allow.
VICE: A lot of people say that you’re the spokesperson for Anonymous. What do you say to that?
Barrett Brown: I’m not. For two years now, I’ve denied that publicly. Every time I’m asked, it turns out that I’m not. The first thing people find when they google me should be a D Magazine article in which I explained that. No one is the spokesperson for Anonymous. It doesn’t work that way. I wouldn’t want that position if it were a position.
I don’t necessarily agree with everything Anonymous does. I don’t necessarily like a lot of Anons. I was very supportive of the dynamics that Anonymous represents. I’m very much an advocate (and continue to be) of these new sorts of communities to express yourself on the internet and the next move I’ll be making is deploying some communities—a little more structured than Anons’—to perpetuate themselves, and grow, while maintaining Anonymous’s core qualities. I’ve identified with Anonymous very closely for two years now, but one of the interesting things to me is how all the articles refer to me as the self-proclaimed spokesperson for Anonymous. They all copy off each other.
You did also call yourself Cobra Commander at one point.
Oh yeah, I called myself that after the NBC Nightly news called me the “underground commander in a new warfare.” Which is just a ridiculous thing to be called.
Yes, it sure is. What do you think of your 100-year sentence?
I’ve known for a long time that I was going to be incarcerated. There are several documentaries where I say that I’m going to jail at some point. You just can’t do these things and not fall on the radar of the FBI without retaliation or reprisal. I don’t want to talk to you about the case or the people involved at this point, but obviously I’m not terribly worried about it.
Why aren’t you worried?
Just because of my knowledge, I know how long they were in there monitoring our stuff… I know what documents and records of my activities are available. They’re trying to claim that I intentionally tried to spread credit card information, but I was opposed to that. And I was on record being opposed to it. They’re just not aware of that.
They don’t have their shit together in terms of going through what they spied on me regarding… and I obviously know what’s there in that evidence, so… I’ve always been opposed to spreading credit cards.
Don’t Stick Dominos in Your Dick
I think when most regular citizens imagine a guy going to jail, they figure that the convict will have to do something stupid to prove his mettle to all the gangsters in there. Usually this scenario involves some thirsty new jack wanting to earn his stripes with the Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, or Aryan Brotherhood by accepting an assignment to cut or stab some rival. In my years in lockup, I saw this a few times, although it was nowhere near as prevalent as one might think. What I did see was a little more shocking.
Prison gangs are somewhat secretive ‘cause you never know who a snitch is, and the authorities frown upon gangs and can discipline someone for being affiliated with one. In New York prisons, the Bloods are public enemy number one, and the pork chops go after them aggressively and punish them as scapegoats for everything that goes wrong. The Latin Kings are historically a Puerto Rican gang, although the lines have blurred in the past decade from what I’ve witnessed. Many Dominicans—and there are a bunch of them—join a gang called the Trinitarios.
For some reason, I am still unable to ascertain, the Trinitarios like to get together in the bathroom and puncture their penises with a little slice and then insert an implant. From what I hear, usually they break off a piece of a domino and insert it up under the foreskin area, or sometimes down closer to the base. In theory, this gruesome procedure is supposed to increase sexual performance, but we always ridicule these fellows, ’cause none of us are gettin’ in that pretty puss-hole in the clink-clink. Truthfully, I’m not sure what good this implant would do. Maybe it’s just an excuse to put another man’s bicho in your hand and jam a foreign object into it?
Prisons Punish Families Too
When I read articles like this one in the New York Times about how prison makes people poor and destroys families, I have mixed emotions. I think it’s admirable that this high-and-mighty mainstream paper is examining the effects of the nation’s prison population explosion over the past 40 years. The author, John Tierney, tells the story of Carl Harris, a guy from DC who used to sell crack until he beat up some of his customers who robbed him and got 20 years on a trumped-up charge because the cops thought he was some big-time drug dealer. Sounds like Carl is doing better now, and I’m real happy he’s gotten to the point where he can enjoy life. Sadly, I ain’t exactly there yet—the drug statutes of New York State are continuing to butt pump my unlucky rump, even though I’m out of prison.
I could repeatedly point out injustices I believe I’ve incurred over the past eight years, however, I’m trying to stop that train of thought and get back to basics. I’ve been beating off to my old Susan Powter videos like it’s ’94 again and thanking whatever there is to thank up there that I didn’t get 20 years for beating up crackheads. As that Times article demonstrates through Carl and his family’s story, some prison terms are WAY too long, and excessive sentences unnecessarily handicap communities already in dire straits. Basically, prison is responsible for more chaos than anything else. But if it took the Times writing about it for you to get that, you’re probably a simpleton who needs some help eating solid food.
I didn’t go to Harvard or Yale and by many peoples’ accounts I’m dumber than dookie-dipped dewdrops drying on a dildo, yet I know prisons better than the front of my dick. While the clink-clink blows balls on a number of levels, the one aspect of doing time that, at least in my experience, isn’t that bad is the one the media plays up the most, and that’s the actual physical doing-time part. Movies and shows depict prisons as full of bloody dicks and shivs, and no doubt, dirt gets done in prison. But actually, most motherfuzzies in jail deal with a lot iller shit in the streets. The prisons I’ve been to were all pretty much chillin’. It’s basically summer camp minus the baby beavers. Lots of us bitch and moan, but we play cards and sports, watch TV, eat free food, have people clean up after us, lift weights, listen to music all day, take profucive naps, read and write a lot, and get money (masturbate) till the cows come home. The best part is you taxpayers pay for it all!
For the last few years, prisoners in Romania have been able to dress however they want as long as they maintain minimum standards of decency. This got our Romanian counterparts wondering: What do chicks wear when they’re surrounded by the awfulness and heartbreak of prison life? VICE Romania decided to pay a visit to the country’s only women’s prison, Târgșor, to check out the fashions behind bars.