It is Scission Prison Friday and today we take a listen to Jerome White-Bay. Never heard of him? You aren't alone. The thing is you should hear of him.
Jerome White-Bey is an anarchist prisoner who started the Missouri Prison Labor Union. Since the founding of the MPLU, Jerome has been subject to administrative harassment and retaliation.
Jerome White-Bey 2014 (Missouri Prison Labor Union)
|The Road to Prison: the Life of Jerome White-Bey|
Introduction Jerome White Bey’s great-great-grandfather, Allen Parker, in all likelihood, was born a slave and died a free man. At the end of the Civil War, in 1865, Congress passed and President Lincoln signed into law, the 13th Amendment of the Bill of Rights: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime where the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, nor any place subject to their jurisdiction." Ninety years later, Jerome was born free; he will, however, considering the Amendment just quoted, most probably die in slavery.
In 1887, twenty-two years after the end of slavery, when Jerome's great-great-grandfather was still a young man, the state of Missouri established the Missouri Training School (MTS) for Boys. Located in Booneville, a rural town west of St. Louis, its stated purpose was the reformation of delinquent boys between the ages of 10 and 17. It became, however, a storehouse where children whose parents could not control them were placed and forgotten. Behind its walls these "incorrigible" children became the objects of draconian punishment including solitary confinement, beatings, hosing down and chaining. By the 1940s its reputation as a house of horrors was solidly established. Originally intended to house up to 350 youngsters, by 1967 it held over 600 youths. Cots were crowded together scant inches from each other, forcing boys to sleep cheek by jowl with one another.
When youths were deemed troublesome to the point of incorrigibility, they would be transferred to the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, an adult institution, or to the prison farm at Algoa, a facility for young adult offenders. A priest told one boy who asked why he and several others were being transferred: "Because you're mess-ups." Though the majority of boys at MTS at any time were white, the majority of those transferred as incorrigible were black. That the majority of correctional officers were whites from largely white rural areas in Missouri cannot be discounted as a deciding factor in the decisions as to which youths were deemed "incorrigible" and hence subject to transfer.
By the late 1960s, photographs of the deplorable crowding and squalid conditions began to appear in newspapers and legislators were obliged to scrutinize the facility. As a result, state officials decided to utilize smaller schools and to emphasize counseling. The children so unkindly stigmatized as "mess-ups" would hereafter be counseled rather than transferred. Nevertheless, the transfer of youths to adult institutions continued apace until 1971 when the Missouri Supreme Court, in response to a suit that began 5 years earlier, voted 5-4 to find so-called "administrative transfer" unconstitutional.
The youths that left the MTS were markedly different from the boys they had been when they entered. Brutalized in such a manner and to such an extent as they had been in Booneville, the paths their lives would now take were nearly entirely determined for them: if they had received brutality for no reason, they would dispense it in the same manner. It is as if they had been bred for prison. Most of them returned to the prison system and remained there until they died or were released for perhaps a few years, only to return once again.
At the age of thirteen, I was sitting in a prison cell called H-Hall crying my head off; I was scared to death. I remember receiving little love notes and candy in H-Hall. I remember telling the other boys we all have to stick together no matter what. In November of 1969, we were sent to Algoa. Now, Algoa was extremely hard for me because the older prisoners used to always jump on me, asking for sex trying to make a punk out of me. I had to fight each and every day. The guards were of no use to any of us. One day I was put in the hole for talking while in line. I remember beating on the door, complaining that my cell was cold. The guards sprayed me with water hoses and then opened the windows. After a month I was released from the hole.
I'd been sent to Jefferson City in August or September of 1969, then to Algoa at the first week of September, 1970; I can remember the guards coming into my cell beating me with sticks because I would not stop hollering and pleading for help. One day I was released out of the hole, then the following week a lawyer came to see us and asked us if we wanted to go home. We all said yes; we were told to sign some papers and the following week we were put on a bus and sent back to St. Louis. We had not committed any crime; we were given no reason why we'd been sent to Jefferson City.
I have always believed that this horrifying experience is the sole reason that today I am sitting in prison where I have now been for 24 years. Since I understand things much better today, I can clearly see that I was bred for prison life the way one breeds cows, horses, pigs or dogs and as it was then it is now.
As I recall, after my release from Algoa in February ‘71, I mostly stayed around he house and enrolled myself back in school with the help of a juvenile case worker whose name was Mr. Thomas. Mr. Thomas was real cool. I liked him a lot. I used to have to report to him once a week. I was enrolled in Southwest High GED classes. One day I saw one of my old friends. We started hanging out together. We were not getting into any trouble, but I stopped going to school.
One day, as I was walking home, one of the Barry twins, who lived down the street from me on St. Vincent Street, offered me a ride in his car. He dropped me off at my house and we talked for a while. I went in the house, changed clothes and then hit the streets. As I went down the street, I saw Barry sitting in his car. He asked me did I want to go with him over to his girlfriend's house? I said, sure, why not? I never thought to question Barry about his car, so we got into his car and as soon as we turned onto Grand, the police got in behind us with their lights flashing. Then Barry told me that this was not his car, it was stolen and to add insult to injury, he jumped out of the car, and left me holding the bag, so to speak, for I forgot to run. The only thing that helped me some was that the police saw the driver jump out of the car and run. Since I refused to tell who the driver was, I was arrested for riding in a stolen car and lo and behold, guess what happened? I found myself again being sent to Booneville in July of ‘71.
This nightmare began when they illegally sent me to prison at thirteen years old. I ask you, where is the justice? I am 46 years old and I have been unjustly condemned to sitting in the hole. I am classified as an undesirable even today because I continue to resist and oppose the injustices and inequities of this state system of social control. I plan to fight the injustice that was done to me until death seizes me or until justice prevails...
This is becoming extremely difficult for me for the pain is real and my mind keeps shutting down. It will have to do until I am able to go deeper into my past. [There is a lot more to tell but] that's a lot to ask, a lot of doors to open that I am not ready to deal with for the pain and suffering is great. I have to really sit down and put my all into this because it involves my revolutionary consciousness...I can see the need to have my experience out there. [Consequently, my story will] be continued...