The Death and Rape of a Michigan Corrections Officer — Part 3
Based on A True Story in Seven Parts
Note: Each part will first be separately published, followed by the entire story published as a single piece.
Warden Biggie Biggins took a forced hiatus from his job to go to Main to conduct an administrative investigation and figure out how Maurice did what he did. While there, Warden Biggins became interested in why Maurice did what he did.
Like Jamal, Maurice grew-up in Detroit’s notorious Twelfth-Street neighborhood, a prairie of urban blight pocked with the remnants of once flourishing streets. Houses and commercial buildings — dilapidated, vandalized, and burned — line the blocks like rotting jagged teeth in an abused mouth. There’s something awkward about such open urban swaths usually seen as a tornado ravaged town on the evening news. The vacant prairie openings reveal the seamy building backsides, like open butt-flaps on old men’s long johns, only stitched with stairs casting shadows almost hiding garbage cans. Twelfth-Street is where the ’67 Detroit riots began, where black people move among forlorn forgotten facades like penitents, each submerged in his own thoughts, as if smothered by anxious breathing, living lives of serial misfortune where imprisonment is both a rite of passage and an extension of reality; a place to hone a protective façade of resentment and belligerence.
Jamal’s junior by more than a decade, Maurice missed the ’67 Detroit riots but was suckled by their aftermath and lived a ghetto life as mundane as it was corrosive — absent father; welfare mother; school failure; petty drug muleing; junky friends; breaking and entering as a prelude to kidnapping, sexual assault, armed robbery, and assault with intent to commit murder; all tied in a neat 18-year sentence — a static-state overwhelmed by personal, familial, and environmental forces making his life a constant process of annihilation. No beginning, no end. Squeezing ecstasy from anger.
Unlike Jamal, in prison Maurice reveled in deep anger by acting out in stupid ways (petty fights, insubordination, mouthing off) that kept him at Main clinging to his street fantasies of being somebody, something respected, a major drug dealer or pimp; fantasies he later described to Warden Biggie Biggins that careen from the walls of his cell and ran the length of his cell block, then hunker in dim dry corners only to spring forth and surprise. Fantasies built to a crescendo of kicking a officer’s ass and fucking a woman, all to applause that isn’t applause but instead the ceaseless insistent noise of a concrete and steel block of cells stacked five tiers high; noise made of the mashed talk and howls and curses of 500 men piled atop one another; noise that leaves no space for the self-knowledge that comes only with privacy, just space enough for fantasies that block the racket and move with a discordant undulating rhythm.
Like doing time, a young twelfth-street black man’s arrival at Main prison was only a matter of time. The smart ones soon understood that there’s a difference between doing time as if it was yours to do and use, and serving time as if serving a god, or serving someone a meal and you’re the meal. Maurice had the ghetto swagger and attitude but events would show that at Main Maurice was the main course.