Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Red paint drips abstract painting
Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

A gray uniform flashed past my window. Then another. Then several more.

Corrections officers from various points on the prison yard were heading into my unit. I heard what sounded like a yelp, followed by scuffling noises down the hall. I stepped into the corridor with the swelling tide of other curious prisoners.

The wave moved toward the officers station, where the two wings of our unit met.

When I arrived, there was about half a cup of blood splattered and pooled inside a roughly 10-foot circle directly in front of the officers station. Some smears and drops bridged the distance between there and the door.

Officers stood around the circle directing traffic. I returned to my cell so as not to add my body to the confusion; I wondered if I should use the bathroom in case they locked us down.

When I looked through the thick mesh screen covering my cell window, I caught sight of officers leading two handcuffed men across the yard. I kept watching to see which one went to medical and which directly to segregation. I didn’t know either of them.

As they moved out of sight, I picked up my coffee cup and headed toward the kitchenette directly behind the officers station. The bloody floor now sported three yellow, A-shaped “Wet Floor” signs. A prisoner bent over the mess, placing reddened paper towels into a bio bag.

It’s impressive how quickly the cycle progresses from inciting incident to cleanup. This efficiency betrays a familiarity that ought to be troubling. The officers don’t seem to notice as they return to their station and begin the paperwork. The rest of the prisoners and I step around the few remaining splotches of blood. We, too, return to “normal operations.”

I can only guess at how much emotional accommodation we've all had to make for the violence of prison; how dulled our empathy and human concern must be to collectively shrug our shoulders at splatters of blood, as if it were just a spilled cup of coffee.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Global Forum Online has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Troy Chapman is a writer incarcerated in Michigan.