New Orleans, LA.
Daniel: When I went to prison the first time, I was 18 years old and basically, when you go to prison man, you gotta stick with your own people. Like Florida isn’t as bad as Texas. Texas is segregated real bad. Like, when you go to the chow hall or you go to the yard, you talk to white people only. You don’t talk to the blacks, you don’t talk to the Mexicans. You stick with your own.
Basically man, you gotta get down with something, know what I’m saying? Cause if you don’t you’re gonna get run over and you’re not gonna be able to have anything. Gang members will come and take it from you. I didn’t really want to join a gang or anything of that nature because I knew the bullshit that was gonna come behind it. You gotta do certain things. But, as I was there a little bit longer I was approached by the Aryan Brotherhood and they basically explained to me how they feel and what they do, the laws of what it is and what it’s about. It made sense to me. I was kind of lost at the time. Being that young, I’d have to fight all the fuckin time. I mean hell, I’d have to fight just to be able to drink the damn milk I got for lunch.
I ended up at a level 7 disciplinary camp which is the highest you can go in the state of Florida. Out of 1800 inmates, 968 of them were lifers. They are never gonna see the light of day again outside of prison walls. These people do not care. They will fuckin’ kill you over a dollar. Just for looking at someone the wrong way. I seen a black dude get his whole face sliced open just for saying something stupid.
BW: What was the hardest thing about being in prison. Is there one day that stands out?
Daniel: The hardest day I had, out of all the years on and off, was this last time. It was my 28th birthday. And on my 28th birthday, at 6 in the morning, I got sent to solitary confinement over a cigarette. And it wasn’t even the cigarette that he locked me up for. He said I had an attitude.
BW: What was solitary like?
Daniel: You’re in an 8x10 box for 24 hours a day. You do not come out of that damn box. You know what I’m, saying? The only time you come out is to go take a shower and you go right back in.
BW: How long did they keep you in there for that one?
Daniel: I did pretty much the last 5 months of prison in that box. When I came back home here, September 21st of 2014, I couldn’t even walk down Bourbon Street. Could not do it. Too many people. It freaked me out bad. I’d been in a box by myself for 5 months… Oh man, it’d fuckin’ wig you out. I’d have to run up to the river and sit there for a while, collect my thoughts.
BW: I think the average person in America thinks that there’s some type of rehabilitation that goes on in prisons and what they do is mess you up worse and put you back out there and expect you to act different. So, how is putting someone in a box for 5 months, by themselves, helping them adjust to reenter society? I don’t mean to get preachy but it seems completely backwards.
Daniel: Exactly. It doesn’t make any sense.
BW: It sounds like you’ve spent a lot of your life incarcerated. What I’m curious about is what set you on that path.
Daniel: When I was in 2nd grade and 3rd grade… you know, I never really had a structure as far as parenting because my mother was a hardcore alcoholic and my father wasn’t there. So, if she would ground me or something like that, I’d come home from school and she’d be passed out, drunk, so I’d be like, “grounded my ass, I’m doing what I want to do.” So, that set me on a path of not following rules. Doing whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it.
BW: Do you ever talk to your mom anymore?
Daniel: My mom passed away on October 8th of last year. When I got back here, I seen her 1 time on Bourbon Street. I didn’t even recognize her at first. The next thing I heard was she was dead.
BW: Were y’all talking at the time?
Daniel: I mean I had just got out of prison but yeah we were really, really close. I forgave her a while ago… I mean I lost a full ride scholarship to Oklahoma State University for wrestling because she decided she wanted to smoke crack and be a prostitute instead of working a job and being a mother, so I had to drop out of school and sell drugs to keep a roof over our head. It cost me everything.
BW: Do you really think you forgave her?
Daniel: No, I don’t.