The Fear of 13 by Nick Yarris

The Fear of 13 by Nick Yarris

Author:Nick Yarris
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Random House

14 ‘One riot at a time!’

There is an alternative version of reality I have witnessed that I cannot get out of my head. It is a secret world ruled by robotic creatures dressed in black, wearing plastic face shields and black metal helmets. And hidden within these costumes they do inhuman things I thought no normal human being could do . . .

As soon as I stepped off the van at Huntingdon following my last trip to court, I found I had other things to worry about besides DNA testing. Years of packing America’s prisons with double the number of people that were supposed to be there meant they were about to explode. Pennsylvania’s two dozen or so prisons were so overcrowded that violence was erupting on a daily basis. And that violence had reached boiling point. In October 1989, two of the state’s prisons, Camp Hill and Huntingdon, were taken over by rioting inmates. This led to two back-to-back blood baths, both of which were to end in misery and death.

Over the usual noise of shouted conversations and banging radiators that I was used to hearing from my cell at night came the calls from other prisoners housed on the level above me. Through the outside windows facing their cells they could see there was some sort of disturbance going on in D-Block, a general population block housing over 400 men which faced B-Block. The Death Row men above me started yelling that they could see lights and movement and men fighting and running. Then smoke. Something big was happening.

Soon there were shouts from other men, reporting that they could see inmates fighting with staff. Someone heard screams for help from some guards out in the hallway. Next thing, we all started to smell the smoke coming in through the door at the rear of our block. Panic soon overtook the voices of the men yelling out above me as they saw fires being started, and more and more. Fire is the worst fear for men locked up in solitary. We all knew that in the middle of a riot no one was going to evacuate a hundred-plus Death Row prisoners. The staff would rather let us die than set free condemned men who might possibly join in the violence. The only people who would let us out were the rioters. But I dreaded that just as much, because as a so-called sex offender I could expect to be raped and beaten or even killed by these men.

I stood by my cell door picturing the faces of family and loved ones as they saw on their TVs that there was a prison uprising at Huntingdon. This was going to be big news, I thought aloud. Just then, the prison emergency siren, used to warn the local community, blared out overhead. If it blasted once there had been an escape; a continuous sound meant a state of emergency like a riot. But the locals didn’t need a siren to tell them there was a riot going on.


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