After 65 days of incarceration, of getting my balls sprayed with hot painful chemicals as a welcome to prison health measure, of consuming food so lacking in appeal that my capacity to eat fell almost to zero, of seeing guys hit over the head with chairs while they dined on breakfast, of hearing about rapes and attempted suicides, of having close calls in some dangerous departments, and of having sufficient spare time to read the blissfully erotic Lady Chatterly’s Lover, I was released from bondage. Actually, the jail house administrators made a book keeping error, I owed them an additional 10 days. But, just this once, I didn’t point out their short comings.
Judy put-putted out to Santa Rita in her VW bug and we returned to Berkeley, where my first freedom breakfast was steak and pancakes and nobody took a chair to my head.
Local elections were coming up and Michael Delacour, the father of People’s Park, recalled that, mostly in jest, I had once threatened to run for Sheriff of Alameda County. He wanted me to do it for real. It’ll be a great protest campaign against what the Sheriff’s Department did to us during People’s Park. It was cops from the Sheriff’s Department who blazed a shotgun trail down Telegraph Avenue and killed James Rector. They wore blue uniforms and their long standing, Beatle-inspired, nickname was Blue Meanies. But after the People’s Park catastrophe some of us had taken to calling them Blue Shirts and Blue Nazis.
And then there was my need for personal revenge. The Sheriff’s Department ran Santa Rita and every pain, paranoia or personal humiliation I and my prison pals suffered was traceable to the Alameda County Sheriff; a frightening fellow named Frank Madigan. Sheriff Madigan was the warden of Santa Rita.
It was easy to get on the ballot. I only had to get a handful of signatures and put up a few bucks. I had nothing to lose. Since I wasn’t a write-in candidate the civic establishment of Alameda County would have to take notice of my campaign. That meant I would be getting invitations to speak before the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO and all other organizations for good government and civilization. It was a great opportunity to bare witness to Sheriff Frank Madigan as a People’s Park war criminal and also to talk first hand about the hideous prison world of Santa Rita. Maybe someone with some power to do something good might just be listening to my angry words.
I made countless speeches to small but very respectable audiences. For many in attendance I was the first Berkeley radical extremist they had ever seen upclose. They were nervously friendly, a bit surprised that I could put two sentences together in a plausible fashion. The best part of my campaign was that it closed Frank Madigan down. The incumbent pig refused all speaking engagements, and certainly wouldn’t debate me. The election campaign would usually have been an opportunity for him to publicly put across his views on crime and punishment. But with me around challenging him to debates and highnoon shoot-outs he thought it best to lie very low. There was poetic justice in Madigan’s silence. He had shut me up for several months when my mail was read by his censors and according to FBI files, passed on to the G-Men. In Santa Rita, I watched even my private words with great care. An eavesdropping snitch might repeat them to the guards and I could fall prey to their set-ups and sadism. Now it was Madigan’s turn to live in fear.
Hearing that Frank Madigan took seriously my challenge for him to meet me on Telegraph Avenue for a .357 Magnum slap leather duel to the death, and with the consent of my campaign manager Ron Kaufman, I decided to press my paranoiac advantage. Our final Stew for Sheriff poster bore the slogan, If Frank Madigan dies, Stew Albert will be Sheriff.
We went out to Santa Rita on Sunday. The families of the prisoners would be lined up on the highway waiting forever for their fifteen minutes of visiting time. I wanted to celebrate my 65,000 votes for Sheriff of Alameda County with them. I lost in Alameda County but carried the city of Berkeley by ten thousand votes.
The prisoner families were my most enthusiastic supporters; they all wore my campaign button which said Stew for Sheriff in the shape of a machine gun and I always knew that I was assured the prison family vote. And that my visiting with them would cheer up their locked-up friends and relatives.
I was approached by a prison guard. Mr. Dillon showed up and I laid a revenge rap on his head. He was the compound officer when I was doing time. He once made me get two haircuts on the same day. It was Dillon who rather happily escorted me to the hole.
I got 65,000 votes.
I guess so.
My supporters want to destroy Santa Rita. Maybe.
You guys scared?
I’m just doing my job.
I served 65 days and I got 65 thousand votes.
Dillon was slightly stuttering and sweating. I was his former victim. Someone who had to tuck in his shirt if he commanded the deed. Now he looked at me in confused disbelief. I was from some inferior species all right, but now I faced him as an almost successful candidate to be his boss. A shocking mutation. He almost said “yes sir.”