TWO thirds of the inmates of Atmore, they were nearer crazy than sane. A few dozen were real mad, dangerous mad, all the time. They should have been in a mental place. The right in the head were always watching out for the wrong in the head. Crazy and sane were put together in the same place and a war went on between them. That was another reason a man had to have weapons. You never knew when a crazy guy was going to steal up on you in your sleep and cut your heart out. Some of these guys, they were crazy before prison. Maybe that was how they got in. Others became stir-crazy after living in such a place and seeing so many crazy ones around them. It was hard to keep your senses here. My own got cloudy very often. Sometimes I could see but not see, feel but not feel, know and not know. I went through the days like a hand goes around the face of a clock--because it has to when things are wound up. I saw knifings and murders, one after the other. You couldn't always figure who was crazy and who sane in all this goings on.
Soon after I got to Atmore I saw the first crazy guy go wild. He cut up several men before they got him under control. When these guys went mad they didn't know what they were doing, just wanted to kill everything in their way. If a mad guy attacked you and you defended yourself against him and hurt him, the warden punished you for it. Even if you didn't defend yourself you got punished. Just if you were involved. Atmore wasn't just a prison. It was a prison, a crazy house, a farm, and a pit in hell all rolled into one. There were guys there, they made reputations for themselves as tight guys and killers just from defending themselves against the insane. If they hadn't, they'd have been cut up themselves. It went on like that all the time, every few days a knifing, every few weeks a killing. A knifing didn't even make much talk. They'd say, "Hear about Latch Morgan? No? He stole so-and-so while he was sleeping last night and nearly killed him." No more talk about it.