“It’s a cautionary tale for teenage males,” said Albano. “I saw how it changed kids even those not there very long. They’d come in wearing sneakers, change into jail house flip flops, and somebody would take the sneakers. It wasn’t a nice place to be.”
Albano based most of the characters and stories in the book on real people and happenings. He ran the kitchen on weekends, and recalled how they had to count the knives used to prepare the food for 400 inmates to be sure every one was accounted for, fearing if one was missing it could be used as a weapon.
One day Albano had to leave the kitchen briefly, leaving the inmate trustee there. When he returned the man was up on a table passing chickens through a hole he had made in the ceiling tiles.
“Bad decisions like that were common,” said Albano. “The guy was due to be released on parole in a short time, but he was willing to risk everything to do something stupid. He lost all privileges and was put in one of the worst cells there. It never made sense to me what the inmates did.”
Albano had to climb up a ladder to the tower to watch what was happening in the rec yard. He had a shotgun that he was told was unloaded and just for show. From the towers he could see a viciously contested volleyball game on the prison side of the wall, and a Catholic High School on the other side.
“Central Catholic was right next to the prison,” said Albano. “On one side of the wall people were getting punched and bloody in the game while life went on as usual on the other side. Now that the jail has been knocked down Central Catholic has expanded and taken it over.”