Study Guide

Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison Chapter 1

By Shaka Senghor

Chapter 1

  • Welcome to Section 1—this book is subdivided into sections, and this is the first.
  • The first chapter starts off dramatic. Shaka wakes up to the sound of sirens. Oh, by the way, he's in Wayne County Jail, and it's September 1991.
  • The next thing Shaka does is to talk to Satan.
  • He's actually not talking to the devil, just to a guy everyone calls Satan. The dude's actual name is Gigolo.
  • Anyhow, Satan/Gigolo is one of Shaka's few pals in prison. Friendliness rarely gets you far in prison, so Shaka is only friends with people who have a lot in common with him.
  • Shaka and Satan are trying to figure out why the sirens are going. They're a few cells apart, so they have to yell. Other prisoners start yelling out their opinions too.
  • Turns out that Shaka and Gigolo and a few pals were part of an escape attempt about fifteen days before.
  • Some other prisoner had made a confidential statement about the escape attempt, and even though there was no other evidence against Shaka and his friends, that was enough to get them thrown in solitary confinement for fifteen days.
  • An Internal Affairs officer tried to get the would be escapees to rat each other out, but they wouldn't do it, so Internal Affairs dropped the issue.
  • But an official in the prison still gave them fifteen days of solitary each.
  • Turns out, though, that the sirens mean something much worse than a response to a failed prison break.
  • Deputies start searching the cells in the solitary confinement section. The deputies seem sad, angry, and surprised.
  • One of the few guards the prisoners respect comes to Shaka's cell. This dude understands that prison is horrible, and tries to make it a little better for the prisoners, instead of a little worse (like most of the guards).
  • Shaka asks what happened, and the cool guard tells him that someone killed an officer named Sergeant Dickerson.
  • The prison officials don't think Shaka had anything to do with it, but they're taking extra precautions anyway, which is why they're checking all the cells.
  • Later, Shaka hears the whole story. The prison authorities claim that another prisoner who was trying to escape managed to smuggle a gun into the prison, then tried to use the gun to escape while en route to a court event later in the day.
  • In the following fight, Officer Dickerson was killed.
  • Shaka zooms out big picture and tells us he's only been in Wayne County Jail for six weeks.
  • He was sent there after being arrested and convicted for second-degree murder.
  • Just in the short time he's been in jail, he's seen rape, robbery, and murder.
  • Ominously, he says that was just the beginning of learning about the true nature of violence.