American movie producers and Hip Hop artists have romanticized the idea of jail, or penitentiary, if you please. They are supposed to be clean and filled to heaven with amenities. Or so you think.
Do not venture into the other side if this is the idea you have of prison. If you are a Kenyan rapper and want a “been-to-jail-tag” on your sleeve, first get a Visa to the US of A, do something shitty there and book a stint in their jails, not here.
We shall even start a Twitter War for your sake and pray like hell that the Embassy staff there listen to your crap. You may be lucky if you borrow their accent in your rap songs.
In my career lasting some nerve-wracking, adrenaline-laden 12 years, I have been to six prisons across the country. Two of the prisons were Maximum Security, where cream de la cream in the robbing and murdering arena were incarcerated. Mercifully, none of the stints lasted a year, partly to providence, luck and good investment in cunning lawyers.
Also read: The beginning of the dark gang ways
And a great deal of backstreet bribery of the court officials – files do not disappear into thin air by mistake, nor does key witnesses slip in their bathrooms tiles by accident and break their skulls days before an important court date.
I had been arrested on Waiyaki Way by cops trailing a stolen car I had borrowed from a lawyer friend. Its true criminal lawyers cannot tell which side of the black-white line they are. It was a modest Toyota 100, white in color.
It hadn’t been used in any robbery then, and it hadn’t been altered much. Just the plates. I also had no idea it was a hot one, for the ‘owner’ had used it for more than six months in the city.
So, am sitting in the jam, all windows rolled down – it was baking hot. Am listening to Luther Vandross sing about his dad on the thumping stereo (and unconsciously wondering why the fuck all love-ballad singers were gay – likes of Luther, Marvin Gaye, et all) when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a gentleman in a white polo t-shirt, blue jeans and Safari Boots deftly hook his arm into the inner door lock handle, open it and step in – cooler than a freaking cucumber.
I automatically knew he was a cop. The Safari Boot is a favorite shoe for cops, especially the Flying Squad. I understood why – those shoes were stubborn, in high school we would even play basketball in them.
I looked right. I thought of jumping out, but I realized there were two other cops on the rear of the car. I had been caught blind as a bat. And I knew they were armed. They became my rear seat passengers. I then drove to CID headquarters, and later bundled to court the following day.
After a few court appearances during which the erstwhile cops couldn’t pin the car on me – it had been stolen twice previously, re-registered twice and had been pursued by four different batches of the flying squad – a deal was struck. They had to save face, and I was instead convicted for handling stolen property, not stealing it.
My lawyer friend, who had lent me the car was in fact my lawyer, pro bono, on the premise that I wouldn’t rat on him. They gave me three months to stew at Kamiti Prison and a further three doing community service.
Kamiti Prison is a weird place to be. And interesting. And scary for a first-timer. But I was lucky for I had made a name in my world. I knew a few hard cores already serving time in this facility – so I kinda waltzed into the system pretty first. Thanks to my gang, I already had a crew inside – protection, upkeep and business.
As a newbie you need to find a godfather, and fast. This is usually the senior prisoners, and the strongest. Its jungle law in here. Being rich really helps, or having a known family name. Not everyone wants a godfather, though. Some newbies have a disposition that’s an entity in itself.
For instance, a teenager I got in with had been given ten years in the slammer for not only dealing hard drugs, but also slitting the throat of his dealer’s daughter. That kind of thing makes you an instant prison celebrity, and not everyone wants to mess with you.
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He just had to choose which crew he wanted to hang out with, but he went one step further. He decided to make his own crew of newbies, and being an ambitious fellow, decided to start a business; which was fine but for the choice of commodity he chose: drugs.
There were plenty of gangs doing that, which ain’t a problem, until you encroach on someone’s territory. Or corner of the pitch, if you may. So it wasn’t a surprise when our teen prodigy turned up dead in the prison chapel one Saturday morning.
He had chocked on a boiled potato. Someone had rammed a hot boiled potato down his throat. The rest of his crew had lost direction and then grabbed up by gang bosses as girlfriends, maids and errand boys. Or all three.
On my part, I took over my gang’s mobile phone department, and pioneered the Sim swap con game. This was in early 2008, M-Pesa was then spreading across the country like a wild fire.
If you received a call from someone supposedly from a Safaricom agent, and faithfully followed instructions on your phone, it’s possible you helped maintain my gang in prison – and paid a few wardens’ kids tuition fees.
We would rent the phone handsets from the wardens.
For that we say thank you.