Today we have an excerpt from Joe Gazzam's Uncaged, out today! Joe is a screenrwriter behind movies such as 21 Jump Street and Step Up: Revolution, and he's now trying his hand a YA Fiction. In his novel, Uncaged, a Scared Straight program goes wrong when teenage Jason gets stuck in a prison during a riot by the inmates. Check out the synopsis:
“Jason seems destined to screw things up. After capping off a burglary and a bar fight with a car wreck, he quickly finds himself on the wrong side of the law. And since his father's the governor, that means his punishment is about as public as it gets. Jason's thrown into the first Scared Straight program Florida has ever run in their updated, state-of-the-art Blackenbush Penitentiary. Along with a documentary crew led by Sasha, a young woman in way over her head, and a handful of other kids a year and a strike away from jail, Jason comes face to face with his inevitable future on the other side of a heavily guarded prison wall.
But that's just the beginning. The tour has barely begun when one of the inmates makes a move. Before long the entire penitentiary is under siege, surrounded by the feds and overrun with prisoners let loose from their cells. Jason slips away with Sasha in the chaos, but they won't be able to escape without help. And the only thing worse than being stuck in prison, is being stuck in a prison run by the inmates.”
Excerpt from Uncaged:
Sasha let her eyes wander down the hall and noticed copious access doors like the one they just exited. But, on the other side of the hallway, there was only one visible access door fifty feet away. It was much larger than the rest, and she knew where it led. The inner ring where the prisoners were kept. A chill went down her spine, and her imagination ran wild. She tried to focus on the task at hand. Anything to avoid thinking about that door.
Sasha and her team moved off to the side as the kids filed out from the adjacent access door. Mike filmed the kids’ reactions as they were led down the curved hallway and up to the large, single access door Sasha had been eyeing. Above it read:
The guard faced the kids and said, “Keep your arms and feet clear of the cells unless you wanna lose them. Don’t make eye contact or talk to any of the prisoners. Stay as far from the cells as possible. If you get too close, they will grab you. They will also attempt to spit at you, and throw things.Possibly urine, feces, or semen." men.” He paused a moment to let that sink in. “Follow me. Walk where I walk, and stay in single file.”
Jason glanced at Travis who was grinding his teeth. His jowls protruded, then retracted over and over. Behind him Luther’s face was completely vacant, as if in some sort of fugue state. He didn't seem to be looking at anything, just staring forward, motionless. Jason turned to Pedro, who was a ball of nerves, moving back and forth on the balls of his feet. Antone and Quentin were the same, their eyes darting around, their hands balled into fists. The kids seemed suddenly a lot less cocky as the reality of this place smacked them in the face. The only one who seemed to maintain his composure was the big redhead, Corey.
The lead guard swiped his access card across a small control panel and immediately a hydraulic door opened. As the group moved through the entrance, a random guard from behind gave Jason a firm shove with his billy club. Jason couldn’t bring himself to even look back. Instead, he followed the group forward, into the inner ring.
The access door slammed shut behind them. Another barrier between here and the outside, Jason thought. That was the last clear thought he’d have for a while as a cacophony of noise assaulted his ears. Tangled voices, screaming, footsteps, metal clanging—all blurred together.
As Jason stepped fully into the inner ring, he noticed that the very center of the prison was hollow. The precipitous drop was cordoned off only by a five-foot high cement wall with a thick metal railing bolted on top. Jason was shocked that this was the only barrier. He wondered how many prisoners or guards had met their demise being tossed over the side.
He then turned his attention to the giant ring of prison cells that encircled the floor. A small semblance of diffused light seeped in through thin, begrimed skylights in the roof. Shadow dominated the curvature of the wall and barred cells. All of the inmates were pressed against their bars. Their twisted faces leered like warped jack-o-lanterns.
A razor-thin prisoner slammed against the bars next to Jason. His face was ravaged from the effects of a prior meth habit. His mouth was caved in, and the baggy skin of his face was pallid, his eyes gray and watery. Jason could barely make out bits and pieces of what he said. “Look what we got here . . . you like being on your knees, pretty boy . . . ?”
The lead guard boomed another order. “Stay in line and follow me.”
Jason somehow willed his feet to move. He pressed against the railing and peered six stories down the throat of the giant tube. A latticework of narrow metal catwalks were the only things that extended across each floor.
Someone bumped him from behind, startled him. He turned to see Sasha moving past, not acknowledging the contact, simply staring forward. Unblinking. Her features frozen. He tried to get her attention, to make sure she was okay, but her gaze was locked straight ahead. As Jason followed behind her, the entire group suddenly stopped in front of a reinforced glass elevator. The only elevator that traveled down the entire hollow center. In front of it stood a thick man with sunken eyes and a flat, veiny nose. His girth and manner made clear that he was the one in charge. This was the Warden.
Jason stared at him, transfixed. The man's eyes reflected utter indifference. Any empathy he once had was long gone. One look and it was clear that the Warden couldn’t care less if this program worked, only that it entertained him.
The man’s prime was quite a few years behind him and his hair long gone, save the landing strip around the bottom. He teetered around 250 pounds, which seemed heavy, even for his six-foot-three inch frame. His pockmarked skin drooped and caused him to look like he was perpetually frowning. All of these things, though not the least bit attractive, clearly helped him do his job. The permanent scowl was something he’d grown to appreciate.
The Warden took a small step toward. “Welcome future convicts. This will be your home for the next three hours, and I will be your host. If you’ll follow me, we’ll begin our tour. I think you’re gonna love it here.” He then walked up to the glass elevator. It contained an access card security system, but he pointedly ignored it.
Instead, the Warden opted to control the elevator with a small, hand-held computer tablet. He tapped the screen dramatically and the elevator doors opened with a hiss. He stepped through and announced, “Well, come on now. Everyone inside.”
As they all filed in, Jason pressed against the back wall. He glanced at Sasha, noticed her picking at her fingers. She was picking so rapidly, that her nail flayed the skin and drew blood. She winced and sucked the tip of her finger.
Another tap of the tablet screen from the Warden and the doors shut again. He glared at the kids and said, “We call this place—The Inferno. None o’ these fellas are here for singing too loud in the church choir. These boys have seen fit to break the law in all sorts of interesting ways. They are here because of the sins they’ve committed. And every level down represents a worse transgression.”
He tapped the tablet again and the elevator began its descent. The Warden noted each floor as they passed. “Up top, on the sixth level, you've got drug distribution, forgery, and theft. Next level down, armed robbery, assault with a weapon. Fourth level, manslaughter, third ring, second degree murder.” He paused to let this soak in. “The last two levels are for the VIPs. Second level, murder in the first degree, rape, arson.”
The elevator landed on the last floor with a booming clang. The doors slapped open and everyone except the Warden recoiled as the acrid smell of perspiration and urine billowed in. The Warden waved his arm dramatically and declared, “And this, my delinquent guests, is the bottom level. Home of the damned. Here we have your serial rapists, killers, and pedophiles. Those beyond rehabilitation. Beyond remorse or conscience.” A small smile registered on his lips. “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.”
For more about Uncaged check out these sites!