I just had to get on here and say "Thank you" to someone who went above and beyond and out of their way for their fellow staff the other day.
It was hot. Like bazillions of degrees hot.
So hot my deodorant not only failed immediately but even it's ghost was obliterated in the searing heat.
Anyway, Lt Sienna pulled money out of his own wallet and sent someone to the store to buy several cases of water. Then he loaded it all in the mail cart, dumped a bunch of ice on the top and drove all over the camp making sure that everybody had enough water to drink.
Staff that is.
We don't see that kind of thoughtfulness or appreciation very often around here.
On those horrible nights when the Warden Himself should be at the door handing out cash because we managed to survive the night all we ever get is "Why didn't you fix it sooner?"
So when someone goes out of their way to do something nice for us, we don't always know how to react. For the most part we stand there dumbfounded with this glazed look in our eyes and ask each other "Did that really just happen?"
Anyway, here's some more thanks from me, Lt Sienna.
You are totally awesome.
And I hope one day I can do something at least half as nice as that for you.
Those of us who were there tonight should have all been handed a hundred bucks by the Warden on our way out. Or at least a commemorative t-shirt reading:
That was just a freaking nightmare.
It all started out innocently enough. We closed the yards at 4:00 like we always do.
At 4:30 the Control center called count.
And we waited.
At 5:10 I looked at my watch and said "Aw, snap...."
At 5:30 they called and said "Send everybody back to their houses except for Laundry and Visiting. Prepare for a name and number count."
So we sent them back and they called count.
My crew did a perimeter check.
And we waited....
I went up to central to find out what was going on right about the time Sgt Miz P called for a Lieutenant down in the Hive.
I walked in and Lt. Sienna handed me the phone and said "I'm going to the Hive. You're in charge."
I looked at his back as he scuttled out the door and said "Aw, snap."
He left me alone in Central.
At 6:30 they called and said "Send everybody back to their houses and prepare for another name and number count."
So I tried to run my yard and answer all of the phone calls from people calling saying "What in the snap is going on?" My reply to that was "If you find out, let me know, pal." I paced back and forth with my radio mic in one hand and the cordless phone in the other.
At 8:22 our count finally cleared. They said "Okay, let's feed them dinner now."
Really.... Okay. I guess we have to, don't we?
We finally finished feeding them chow at 9:35. A chore that is usually complete by 5:45 or 6:00 at the latest.
I finally got to eat my dinner at about 10:15.
When I finally found out what the problem was, it turned out that somebody messed up the numbers in the Control Center so bad that they could not figure out how many inmates we were really supposed to have. Someone not on our shift, but the previous one.
I won't name any names. But then I never do.
By policy, we should all still be there trying to figure out the problem. Our count has never officially cleared.
But the Warden took a moment away from tearing out his hair and said "Clear it. We have to feed them dinner." So we did.
Technically, we know how many inmates we are supposed to have. Those numbers all match up. But according to the so-called "Official" numbers in the Control Center, we are missing one.
I have a feeling that come Monday some heads somewhere are going to roll.
Glad I wasn't up there. I need my head to wear the Big Stupid Hat.
Me... I'm taking my sleepy pills and going to bed.
Even if I didn't get a hundred bucks or a t-shirt.
If you don't mind me still ranting about this whole PREA thing, then read on.
If it bugs you then....
Go somewhere else is all I can suggest.
Because I have a feeling that I am going to be harping on this subject for a little while yet.
One of the major mistakes that they made in implementing these federal guidelines was that they immediately bombarded the offenders with all this information all of the sudden. Posters, pamphlets, handouts, etc. They made sure that they all knew that this was a new thing and that it was something important. They made sure that if an inmate came up to one of us and said "PREA" that we were supposed to take both notice and action. There's even an anonymous toll-free hotline that they can call and make a complaint.
So let's see... there are somewhere around three thousand inmates here in Raccoon City. And if you were to ask each of them what they hate the most, they would almost all say.... Us. Me and my lads and ladies out there in the ditches. Not the Warden of the caseworkers or the maintenance guys or the Librarian. Us. Because we are the ones that try to keep them in line and lock them up when they are doing something stupid.
And here... let's give them all access to an anonymous toll-free phone that they can call and lodge a complaint against any staff member that hurts their tiny little feelings.
Because... there is no system in place to punish them for making false or spurious claims.
There are tons of things in place to ensure that staff cannot and will not "retaliate" against them for making a claim. But nothing to stop them from making stuff up just to get a staff member in trouble.
We were waiting for this to happen and it has. The first official complaint was made against an officer. As far as I can tell, it has no merit. It all stemmed from the officer doing his job and the inmate just trying to make trouble for him. Just a little snaphead trying to wiggle out of being in trouble himself.
This all happened right before the weekend so we are all waiting with bated breath for Monday to see what comes of it. Wondering how the administration is going to handle the situation.
I do know what will happen if that officer gets disciplined over this. The amount of hotline calls will go through the ceiling. Every single one of us will be under investigation and the snapheads will rule the camp. Inside of a month there won't be anybody left inside the fence. There will be a continuous conga line of officers walking inside and making one lap around the camp and out the other side looking for another job.
And that, my friends, is just sad.
So if you happen to be looking for some short-term employment, let me know. I have just the place.
So.. I gave you the lead-in yesterday. Or this morning... whenever that was.
The Feds are now wanting to crack down on something that they will never be able to even make a dent in. So instead they are going to throw money and random legislation at it until they can claim some sort of victory.
Kind of like the "War On Drugs" they started back when I was a kid. To this day they still haven't figured out which continent they are fighting that war on, let alone the battlefield.
Some of the stupidest rules to spew from their mouths in recent months have had to do with our female officers.
I am not, repeat not.... going to get into the argument of whether or not females belong working in a male prison. Most of them are just as reliable and capable than the men. Some of them even more so. I can think of at least half a dozen of them that I would pick first over most of the men if something went down.
Some of the new rulings coming down have tried to severely limit what female officers can and cannot do. A short-lived rule pretty much forbade them to pat search any male inmates. Oh yeah.. That raised a stink. Many of our female officers got all offended by that one. The ability to pat search an inmate is one of the staples of being able to do our jobs here. Without that there would be no end to the weapons and drugs and things that would get smuggled all over the place.
Not only were they hindering our female officers from doing their jobs, but they were also saying that the male officers were going to have to do all of the work they were no longer allowing the females to do.
I believe that ruling lasted all of one weekend. With a very hastily worded "Whoops... We were wrong on that. Disregard." the following Monday.
And I'm not exactly sure what had transpired in the interim, but I did hear the phrase "Class-Action lawsuit" bandied about some.
Yeah... that could cost somebody some money...
The latest box of stupid concerned female staff down in the Hive. Where at the moment two out of three of the assigned Sergeants are women. And two of the most hard core capable women I know. Sgt Miz P on evenings and Sgt Firecracker on midnights.
At any rate, the new rule is that is an inmate is on suicide watch and refuses to keep his smock on in the cell, that any female staff in the control room must be removed from her post so she cannot view him on the monitoring system. And they will also not be allowed in C-wing while this offender remains naked in the cell.
Of course one thing they did not take into consideration is that there is also a monitoring system in the Sergeants office.
So.... if some knucklehead decides he wants to run around his cell naked then not only can the girls not work the control room and cannot go into C-wing, they can't be in the Sergeants office either. Yeah.... I'd love to see some suit from the capitol come down and try to tell Miz P and Miz Firecracker that. They'd laugh in his face. Maybe thump him on the head and throw him out of the house saying "Mind your own damn business, Snaphead. Let us do our jobs!"
So let's recap here....
The whole hullabaloo is about stopping sexual assaults in prison.
So why are they coming down so hard on our female officers?
In the ten years I have been with the department, I have never heard of one of ours raping an inmate.
Sure, there's been some stupidity, but....
The longer I am here the more I keep thinking to myself...
In 2003 Congress enacted the Prison Rape Elimination Act. It's stated goal, which is rather obvious from the name, is to stop sexual assaults and harassment in all detention facilities.
A fine enough sentiment, to be sure. I have no doubt that they had the purest intentions when they drafted this little fantasy.
It is however, in my view, nothing more than a fantasy. Whenever you have that many people of the same gender confined together for long periods of time there is going to be sexual activity. And when you have a large number of such people confined together, some of that sexual activity is going to be forced or coerced.
It's the "law of the jungle", after all. The stronger ones will always prey on the weaker ones. It happens in prison just like it happens out on the streets.
We are all trained to look for the signs of this event and when we discover that there is some sort of sexual abuse happening, we have a system in place to report it and punish the perpetrator.
We were under the impression that this was about the best we could do, under the circumstances.
After all, the only real way to completely eliminate this problem would be to confine every single one of them in a cell by themselves and never ever allow them any kind of physical contact with another person until the term of their confinement was completed.
That would work, in theory.
Of course probably 75% of them would leave prison completely insane from the isolation....
But that's not my problem. We would make sure that they weren't raped while they were in there and that's the bottom line, right?
Oooh.... No pun intended there.
Well.... maybe just a small one.
Since jails and prisons all over the world are becoming inconveniently overcrowded, there's little or no chance of trying out my master plan any time in the future anyway. The courts in California have decreed that they must release some ten thousand plus offenders out into the population to reduce their overcrowding problem.
It will be interesting to see what that does to the crime rate numbers in California and neighboring states in the next few months.
At any rate....
The law has been in effect, as I said, since 2003.
We all thought that we were doing our best to prevent this from happening and punish those who broke the law to the extent we were capable.
Nobody that I know of had ever looked at the federal guidelines which had been published on the matter. That sort of thing is above my pay grade, anyway. My job is more "nuts and bolts" down on the front lines. Look for this, find that, fix it or respond to it and take care of the problem.
Well, it turns out that the state had been receiving federal grant money for the last ten years to support their little dream of completely eliminating sexual abuse in our prisons. There was no auditing system in place so apparently we were taking the money and saying "Yes, we are doing everything we can do. No worries. We got this." and going on our merry way, content we were doing a good job.
After ten years I guess someone in Washington DC decided "Let's see what we are getting for our money." So now they have decided to send auditors out to ensure that we are doing our very utmost to eliminate sexual assaults and harassment in our jails and prisons.
As such some people in our own capitol building have finally looked at their standards and said "Holy snap. We have to start doing all of this stuff right now." And they began issuing edicts left and right, willy-nilly without considering what the effects on the front line troops would be.
Like a Commanding General who has never actually been in a war, we are being led by people, many of whom have never even stepped foot inside of a prison. let alone ever actually worked in one.
Mistakes are being made, in my opinion.
Some of which are going to have some long-lasting repercussions down the road.
I will attempt to relate what some of those mistakes are in future posts.
Not sure if I'm back for the long run or not.
I've had the itch to write off and on for awhile now.
No promises, but we'll see.
Whenever one of ours passes away, they always get noticed. Whether they were a present employee or whether they retired years ago, they always get noticed and we remember them.
I hate wearing the black band on my badge. Because it means one of ours has passed and we are out a comrade and a friend.
Just like seeing the fine lads of the honor guard, with their highly polished boots and shiny brass and cocked berets. They look so solemn and professional and I am always proud to see them representing us.
But at the same time I hate to see them because most of the time it means that another one of us is gone.
It seems like these last couple of years have been particularly hard on us here in Raccoon City.
I've taken to carrying the band in my wallet.
Last week a tragedy took two of ours.
The rest of us are left to pick up the pieces.
Our lives are smaller because of their passing.
And there are two more who won't be at our backs when things go bad.
But if things go really bad I'll be in good company.
I'll leave my band for someone else to wear.
I just couldn't let the night go by without mentioning it.
We've been so short of help lately (for various reasons I won't go into) that the overtime list looks more like the reel on a slot machine it spins around so fast. I've been lucky that the shortages on our shift always happen while I'm there and most of the shortages on midnights happen on my days off.
So I've been lucky and unlucky. There are too many people for me to work a day off and just not enough call ins to make me work a double so far. The odds will catch up to me soon, though.
Today was an extra special treat. Sgt Uncle T came in and worked a day off so he could get off of the doubles list and the only spot they had for him to work was as a COI on B-yard under me. So we had two Sergeants and poor St Francis out there stuck between us.
It was very strange being the yard Sergeant and having Uncle T out there working for me instead of the other way around. But kind of cool in a way, too.
I went up to Main Production to do a security check just as Uncle T was checking the fences and Goosey was out there cackling over the situation.
"It has to be karma!" Goosey said "The student has become the teacher!"
I just smiled and bowed and said "Call me sensei."
It was a pretty good night. Uncle T and St Francis gave each other crap all night long. Just like any two other yard dawgs generally do. They yakked back and forth and insulted each other constantly. And every time St Francis would get off a good one, Uncle T would yell "You just wait til tomorrow! I'll be your Sergeant again tomorrow! You just wait!"
They never change.
The only weird thing that happened tonight was during chow. Uncle T was up on the hill watching the inmates and St Francis was down at the front doing pat searches as they came out of the chow hall. He pats this inmate down and reaches into the guys coat pocket and pulls out a instant coffee jar full of some yellow liquid. They aren't supposed to take anything out of the chow hall. Food or drinks or anything.
So he just tosses the jar behind him on the ground and when it hits the top pops open and that yellow liquid splatters all over my pants and boots.
I had no idea what it was. It looked just like..... a jar full of yellow liquid. With a little bit of bubbly foam on the top like it was fairly fresh. I only saw it for an instant before it popped open and went all over my pants.
I just kind of froze in the spot and looked at St Francis and said "Are you f***ing kidding me?"
He stood there for a second bewildered by the murderous look on my face.
Then it dawned on him what I was so pissed off about.
"It was juice, man! It's Kool-Aid from the chow hall! I swear!"
The urge to strangle him subsided a bit, but never really went away.
And every time anyone asked me how my night was going I said "St Francis threw pee on my boots. How do you think it's going?"
P.S. I didn't find out until after I posted this that one or the other of those chowderheads dumped the bottom of my lunchbox full of potato chips crumbs and toilet paper.