I walked around Skid Row this morning. I thought about it alot last night. I thought about the Safe Streets Initiative.
I do not know what Skid Row was like before February 7, 2007. That was the day I arrived here. I sat in jail from October to February 7.
I can tell you what it was like in jail before and after the sweeps started.
I stayed in what is called the "Old Man's Dorm". I was lucky to be in that dormitory in Wayside, the Los Angeles County facility. It was a peaceful dormitory. There were no fights and the blacks and the latinos coexisted peacefully. I understand spanish extremely well. However, I have had very little chance to practice speaking. I practiced alot in jail. Oh yes, there were fights, every day, all day long in the other dormitories. Fights between blacks and fights between blacks and Latinos.
The blacks fought alot with a group that is known as the "Southsiders". They are anti-black.
They are anti-latino if you fall into a group that has no problem coexisting with people other than Latino, or even more narrowly, Mexicans.
Around the start of the holiday season, the sweeps started in downtown Los Angeles. They brought in people every day from downtown. That is when the trouble started. They called themselves "DTG's", downtown gangsters. They had delusions of grandeur. It was like a big party to them. It was like a reunion to them.
They immediately attempted to take over the dorm and prey on individuals in the dorm. They tried to extort a person's "store" from them. A "store" is what the inmates purchase from the jail store once a week. They put in their orders on Monday night and It comes the following week. It was party night each "store" delivery night. Inmates would celebrate with generous portions of coffee. I went 4 months without anything from the store. I had no money and I did not want to contact anyone, nor could I, to obtain any funds. I was deterrmined to survive the experience with nothing extra. IT WAS A LEGACY THAT CAME FROM NO LONGER NEEDING DRUGS TO GET BY.
The downtown gangsters were predators. They were lawless. They would not even lie to themselves, for the most part, about recovering. You see, there is a 'recovery' fad. If it is good for your image and if it behooves you to pretend like you are clean, you pretend to be such.
The downtown gangsters did not even bother. Some of them slept for days because they had not slept in weeks. The heroin users were the filthiest. They did not want to take showers.
I have seen quite a few of the 'downtown gangsters' since I have arrived here. Those that have been released from jail, for the most part, landed on Skid Row. You could identify them
immediately, even if you do not know them. They have that predator look in their eyes.
They immediately search for their comrades. They try to get credit on a "sack" to sell
drugs to people in the area so they can get back on their feet.
There is a building on Skid Row, right in the heart of Skid Row, where many of them reside.
It is a building that has many programs in it. The officials try their best to keep the building
clean of drugs. It is difficult. Everyone knows that more drugs are sold and done in that building than anywhere on Skid Row. Eventually, the downtown gangsters return to jail or prison.
Why do I say all of this? The more I hear and see about the Safe Streets Initiative, the more I ask myself why anyone would fight it. The statistics don't mean too much to me. I see the looks on people's faces when they walk down the street. Yesterday, a woman was on her way to court. She was in the Prop 36 program. She was glad she had the opportunity to clean up her life. She was glad that she did not have to be tempted by as many drug dealers every day when she walks down the street.
When you look around the street, you will see what is there. There are so many people that you have to have a filter. Once you put the 'filter' on, you clearly can focus in on your subject matter.
You see the gangsters. They do not get it. They do not see that their time is limited. Sure they sell drugs. They are easy to recognize. They wear the bright tee shirts and the new basketball shoes that cost in excess of 100 dollars. They have that predator look in their eye.
"There was a raid on Winston. Just a few minutes ago," one of them said to a buyer of drugs.
"I can not get any 'work'. " (work is a term that means drugs to sell). The drug dealers are upset and the chronic career smokers are upset. They have no intention of changing their lives.
Everyone who is not doing drugs is happy. They are the "SILENT MAJORITY" of Skid Row.
They are the subset of people in Skid Row that silently nod to each other when they pass each other on the streets. We have our war with the dealers. The dealers want to engagae in conversation. They want to establish eye contact so as to open the door for communication.
That is their job. Our job is to avoid eye contact or to stare straight into their eyes and let them know that they have no chance here. Our war with the dealers is separate than the police war with the dealers. We are battling them on another front.
Then you have the ones who smoke and do drugs. They would like to be clean but they do not have they guts to stay clean. They are easily led. They are the dangerous ones. They are more dangerous than the ones who are the predators. why? Because the clean people who are very vulnerable stay clear of the predators. They run and hide from them. However, they do not run and hide from the people with whom they have been in programs and know.
Yesterday, I walked home from the library after blogging. I ran into a guy who went through a program. He did great. Got a job. within a month he was in the street. His skin was gray. I did not recognize him. He would come by and talk to me when I was in the guard shack.
I had not seen him for a while. he looked much better. I found out why. He had been in jail. He caught a drug case. He was led back into drugs by a man with whom he was close. To be honest the man was a transsexual. He fell in love with the man. That is what led him back to drugs. I do not care about the man's sexual preferences. I am just giving the total picture.
Besides, sexual identity issues are a significant part of what goes on on Skid Row.
The man started talking in a hipster tone to me last night. he never talked to me in that fashion in the past. He then started telling me how he was trying to purchase 2 ounces of cocaine from a dealer and that he should get a price break.
"I don't want to hear anything about that shit" , I told him as I abruptly turned to face him. I looked him dead in the eye. " You went through that whole program and now you stand here in front of me asking me for a soda pop so you can hide your breath . You are fucking up.
You have a chance. They have given you chances and you are still fucking up. You are dangerous to yourself and anyone around you. You are the one that causes a person who is weak for drugs to use again. Why? because you have access to the person and you can break down the person's defenses. You are more dangerous than the drug dealer. I have never told you anything wrong. You are going to go to prison if you continue. You are disgusting because you THINK THIS IS COOL, WHAT YOU ARE DOING. Save your life. Dont talk to me again until you are clean." I turned and walked away.
That kind of person gets people in trouble who want to stay clean but who is weak. That kind of person will drag a vulnerable person to jail with them. That kind of person is the kind of person that the fiercely clean person wants out of skid Row. They are the bridge between the clean world and the drug society.
They are too stupid to realize they are pawns. They are playing a game that they do not realize is over. The DEALERS REALIZE THE GAME IS OVER. They are busy trying to find new territory even though they are still selling drugs here. They know their days are numbered. With each raid, they know their are less and less that the police have to worry about to find them. They use the pawns to re enlist those who are vulnerable in their recovery. In my opinion, the pawns are the most dangerous and the ones who thwart the progress on Skid Row.
I had lunch today with a Police Sergeant and a case manager from PATH. He works in the SOS program. It surprised me when he told me that when someone was arrested arrested for
a low grade crime or misdemeanor, that invariably, they would prefer to go to jail than cooperate with the people who were there to help them straighten out their life. Mr Conner, of PATH,
told me that when most of the people are in full blown addiction disease, they do not care about anything. They will do things that they would never consider doing when on drugs. What surprised him most when he started was the willingness of those to go to jail. They felt as though they were being coerced into a program.
It appears to me that to revert back to old ways and old thinking would put "compassionate
alternatives" back 50 years. Stay the course. Keep giving people the option. The success rate will pick up with respect to these individuals making the right choice to get help. As more and more choose to receive help, the peer pressure to defy authority will deminish.
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