On a random day I am walking around a housing unit. Most of the inmates are gone to lunch. I walk by a cell and I smell something funny, like something is burning. So I decided to go inside and have a look. Sometimes inmates light fires to cook up hooch, homemade alcohol. It doesn’t smell like a hooch making process is going on, but I look around anyway.
The cell is clean really. I lift the mattresses. I check coat pockets. Nothing unusual. I flip through the books on the desk and check the shoes under the bed. Still nothing. I am no longer expecting to find anything. It seems pretty clean. Then I see in the corner that the trash can is upside down and under a chair. This seems slightly odd but I think nothing of it.
I pick up the chair and put it aside. It is plastic, like lawn furniture. Then I bend down to pick up the trash can. I just go ahead and grab it full on. It is scorching. My hand is burning. I fling the trash can to the side and find a fire beneath. The trash can had been propped up with rolled magazines and a small fire was burning in a halved soda can. They were using the trash can to collect the soot to make ink for tattoos.
My hand was hurt, but very superficially. But now I was mad. So I begin going through their lockers. I took anything that wasn’t allowed; cardboard, ripped sheets, trash bags, and ripped clothes. I was pretty satisfied. I know I shouldn’t have “revenged” them, but they really shouldn’t have started that fire. Technically I could have written them an incident report for it. But I felt my “revenge” was sufficient. I was willing to overlook a small thing that hurt no one in order to maintain peace in a very violent atmosphere.
As I was leaving with my bag of pilfered goods, I decided to round out my search by checking the plumbing area. Underneath the sink there are holes. It is where the bolts and screws and such that hold it to the wall go. I felt something up there. It was long and felt like it had some cloth wrapped around it. It took some jimmying, but I managed to get it out. It was a shank, or homemade weapon. It was made from a very narrow copper pipe, just over 8 inches long and sharpened to a point on one end. The “handle” was made from shoe laces wrapped around the end. This could do some damage. This cannot be overlooked.
I took the weapon, the pilfered junk and left the cell. I locked it behind me. When the inmates returned from lunch, they came to me and asked me why I had secured their door. (I am sure they knew.) I told them of the strange smell, and the burning of my hand. I told them I got mad and took their junk. They were cool with that. It seemed fair and they apologized for the fire. That is when I mentioned I happened to check their sink area. I didn’t have to say what I had found. They looked at each other. I asked who was going to take the blame, as the sink is a common area to both of them. One of them volunteered and was sent down to the lieutenants’ office. He was sent to segregation to await a disciplinary hearing for the possession of a weapon. Another officer came and picked up the weapon and took it to be secured in the evidence locker. I packed what little property the guy had in his cell and someone came to pick it up. The remaining inmate apologized again and again. I wrote reports of what had happened as well as memos describing the incident.
A short time later, I had to go have medical staff look at my hand. It no longer hurt at all and had some slight blistering. The PA and the nurse were making fun, in a good humored way, about my serious injury. I just laughed.
Truthfully though, between the fire and the weapon, someone could have been hurt. Luckily, with my amazing skills and incredible luck, that day it was prevented.