"Did he fall or was he punched?" the nurse asked. The inmate was bleeding from two places on his face, lying on the wet tiles of the shower floor. His eyes were wide open but he couldn't speak, couldn't move.
I held his head with a gloved hand, stabilizing in case his spine was injured. "Assault," I said, "If he'd fallen and hit the cut would have been on the outside of the orbital ridge. This is on the inside. He was hit."
I caught myself, "Is it terrible that I know that?" I asked.
Later, when the nurse was using super glue (it has another name when a doctor uses it but it's the same stuff) to seal the laceration, the now half-conscious kid asked if it would scar. The nurse said just a little.
"No one will notice it," I said. There was a flash in my memory of a ring on a big fist that matches to a scar in my left eyebrow. "No one notices mine."
Interviews, investigations. The injuries at first seemed serious enough to warrant felony charges. A dorm of 65 inmates with one beaten unconscious and, of course, no one saw a thing. In ten minutes we had the assaulter identified and removed, but it took me another half hour to be absolutely sure it was the right man...
When the injuries proved less serious, it became a misdemeanor, something I could not charge. The victim declined to press charges, balancing his anger, humiliation and desire for revenge against the probability (the near certainty) that he will be in custody again and word will spread that he was a "rat". Societies are self-enforcing in many ways.
So there will be no new charges and it will be handled within the institution with segregation and the loss of priveleges.
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