The prison guard aimed his shotgun at my waist…
There was really no need for that. I was shackled from head to toe. Handcuffs, leg irons and a waist chain hooked to the man next to me. I looked up at the towers, just like in the movies, and it was like Alcatraz. It was Terminal Island Federal Prison, around 10 PM, mid-March, 1985.
I was about to start a seven-year hitch in prison. I had taken over a million dollars in an elaborate sting against Colombian Cartel members over a one year period. My crew had posed as Mafia members in Vegas to convince the Cartel we were to be trusted laundering their money. But my crew were all paid actors – like in the movie "The Sting" – and the Cartel was actually the Pacific Strike Force made up of FBI, DEA, IRS, Customs and attached LA police officers.
Yeah, I took them alright. But in the end about the worst thing you can do is "sting" the Feds.
They don’t like that much. As I look back, maybe I was lucky to have only received the seven years. A two week trial nearly set me free – nearly.
They put me in a dark hallway headed to J-1, lock down. Two-man cells, almost solitary confinement. Each man stopped at his new "home" long enough to swallow and hope his cellmate was asleep and the noise of the cell door opening didn’t piss that guy off too much.
My cell was near the end of the hall. It was all cement, ugly, had a bad odor and was damp. It was just off the ocean in Long Beach, California. I looked in the cell, saw a black man, maybe six feet seven – big guy. He was young, asleep and snoring on the lower bunk. My heart was pounding.
"Christ that guy is a monster, please don’t wake him up in the middle of the night."
I went in and was as quiet as a church mouse. They uncuffed me. I tried crawling into the upper bunk without making a sound. No way. I had to step on his bed to climb up there.
I’d seen my share of fights, gun battles and the like, but this was really getting to my nerves. He stopped snoring and yelled something out. I think he was talking to his mom in his sleep. God. don’t let him get up and stab my ass. I JUST GOT HERE.
Inside I knew I would somehow beat this thing. Somehow, someone on the outside would save me. I’d never lost before – not like this. I was 29 years old and at the top of my game. Or so I thought. In the end, no help came. Man, every time I would hear a guard walk by I would think," He’s coming for me. He’s gonna say, ‘Glazer get all your things, you’re out of here.’ "
But that day never came.
My cellmate woke up at like 6 A, looked at me and didn’t say a thing. Thank God. I was still in my orange jumpsuit, afraid to take it off. Who knew what this animal might do. After all, I’d been on covered on the TV news daily as an ex cop and sting artist who jacked dope dealers. And the prisoners watched TV in the day room, so they probably knew who I was.
To the cops I was a crook, but to the crooks I was a cop. And that’s not good place to be.
I was sweating pretty bad when the big dude got up and was about an inch from my face when he pulled out a black book and said, "Are you with God?" My fear vanished, I looked at him, lied, and said, "Uh, sure. Yeah."
And he said, "Good, we can go to church on Sunday."
It was then that I realized that so many men deserved to be there. While almost as many didn’t. And guys like me needed to learn a lesson. Boy, did I learn a lesson.
I learned that THIS TOO SHALL PASS.
I was moved to another cell a few days later. I met hundreds of men in the joints I stayed in for a year or more each. It was weird. But I’ll always remember that first night. The worst of many to come. But I don’t remember the man’s name, the big guy.
He said to me, "So what’s your sentence?" I said, "Seven years." Then the big man said with a smile, "Ah, brother, WINTER-SUMMER, WINTER-SUMMER, WINTER-SUMMER, WINTER-SUMMER AND YOU ARE FREE."
Back then, you did two-thirds of your sentence, now it’s like 85%.
In an odd way, that man gave me hope. And sometimes that’s all any of us ever have. Or really need.
And sometimes that will save even sinners like me.