Violence and Prison

AuthorPatrick J. Pantusco
Published date01 May 2022
Date01 May 2022
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2022, Vol. 38(2) 179 –181
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10439862221096719
Violence and Prison
By Patrick J. Pantusco
On June 18, 1996, a troubled past and an inexcusable series of choices culminated in
a police pursuit that ended in a tragic motor vehicle accident resulting in the death of
an innocent motorist. At the age of thirteen, I experienced the worst form of violence
imaginable by a young boy, I was sexually abused by a friend’s father. Being molested
fostered an overwhelming sense of embarrassment and shame that I was unable to
cope with; as a result, I spiraled into a deep depression. I began to self-medicate in a
futile attempt to escape my emotional turmoil. Following years of substance use and
abuse, I finally succumbed to an all-consuming addiction. I eventually found myself
compromising the morals and values that my parents had instilled in me my entire life.
I began stealing anything and everything to support my addictions. On that fateful day
in June, out of desperation, I committed purse snatching in an effort to obtain money
in order to alleviate my withdrawal symptoms. Unbeknownst to me, the last woman
that I stole a purse from was injured as a result of my actions. The police were notified,
and approximately twenty-five minutes later, they observed me sitting in a stolen car,
waiting in traffic. When the police attempted to pull me over, I fled. Although I never
intended to hurt anybody, my actions were reprehensible, and ultimately destroyed the
lives of two families. The violence I endured as a child led to my commission of vio-
lence, which led me to prison.
Barely out of my teens, I was escorted through the gates of America’s oldest and
most notorious penitentiaries, Trenton State Prison (now New Jersey State Prison).
My arrest and subsequent conviction forced me to face my past, and come to terms
with the consequences of my actions. I walked into prison with my head up, fright-
ened, but determined to never be a victim again.
Perhaps due to my youth, a number of the older men looked at me as the sons that
they had left behind in the world outside of prison. They took it upon themselves to
mentor me on prison protocol. I realize now that they also protected me by shielding
me from the myriad horrors of prison life. They made it known that there was a “hands
off” policy on the kid. Although I was not subject to a lot of the violence that perme-
ates prison life, I witnessed all forms imaginable, from convict-on-convict, to staff-on-
convict, even convict-on-staff. I have witnessed murders where the brutality and
horror could never be reproduced in a motion picture. I have heard sounds that will
1096719CCJXXX10.1177/10439862221096719Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticePantusco

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