Study Guide

Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison Chapter 2

By Shaka Senghor

Chapter 2

  • Flashback time. Chapter 2 starts with Shaka's arrest six weeks before the events of Chapter 1. It's the second time Shaka has been arrested.
  • He's just turned nineteen, and he's facing a murder charge.
  • Shaka finds out he's going to Wayne County Jail. The place pretty much sounds like The Hunger Games, with everyone out to get everyone else.
  • As he's waiting in a holding pen with a bunch of other prisoners, Shaka wonders how he ended up here.
  • He remembers telling his mother years ago that he wanted to be a doctor when he grew up. Shaka thinks that he just needs one more chance, and then he could turn his life around.
  • Then we get some backstory. Shaka has thought this before.
  • Once he was sent to juvenile detention for drug possession and felony-level assault.
  • Afterward, he promised his dad he would change, and it worked for a while.
  • Shaka went to a job program in Kentucky, earned his GED, and did carpentry.
  • The trouble was, Shaka kept selling drugs while there. He also managed a loan-sharking ring. Those weren't quite the management skills the program was hoping to teach him.
  • When Shaka got caught, the program sent him home to Michigan on a Greyhound bus.
  • Shaka's father is not thrilled about this development.
  • More backstory: Another time, Shaka took a trip to Ohio. Sounds fine, right?
  • What's not so good is that he went to sell drugs, and his car was chock full of drug profits in cash on the way back.
  • Not to mention the guns in the trunk. When the police pulled Shaka over, he was arrested.
  • He decided to clean up his act after that, but when he succeeded at winning the case and went back to Detroit, he went back to his old patterns.
  • Basically, Shaka was stuck in a bad cycle at that point of his life.
  • If it looked like he might end up in jail, he got scared and resolved to change his ways.
  • But as soon as the threat to his freedom was gone, he went right back to his old patterns.
  • Spoiler alert: Shaka tells us it would take ten years and a whole lot of trouble before he was really ready to change.
  • Why isn't Shaka ready to change? He actually loves living in the streets.
  • He likes the money. He likes the cars. He likes the attention he gets from women.
  • And he likes his reputation—nobody wants to mess with him, because they know he'll shoot if he feels threatened. And that gives him a sense of power and control over his life.
  • Okay, backstory done. Shaka is in the holding pen when he notices some other guy glancing at him.
  • In the highly charged world of prison tensions, that in itself can be a threat. Fortunately, in this case the guy just remembers Shaka, because he lived on the same street as Shaka's sister at one point.
  • They talk for a bit about old times, and Jimmy says he's overheard the officers talking about Shaka.
  • He says the officers are pretty disturbed that someone as young as Shaka did something as violent as he did.
  • Older prisoners start listening in. They're fascinated when Shaka brags that he can beat a murder charge.
  • Shaka says that the attention made him feel like a celebrity, in a weird and twisted way.
  • Eventually, Shaka is transported to Wayne County Jail. He's strip-searched in a humiliating way, and then he has to change into a green prison uniform.
  • The prisoners are allowed to keep their socks and underwear, but the rest of their personal clothing is taken away.
  • Shaka sees this as just the beginning of a long string of things prison does to wear away at someone's sense of their own humanity.
  • The chapter ends with the steel prison doors clanging shut. That, and a reference to Dante's Inferno, a book about a guy who takes a trip through hell.
  • The Ominous Meter should be off the charts right about now.

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