20 March 2017

A Working Theory

SHARING IS CARINGShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePin on PinterestShare on TumblrPrint this page

pregnant orange

It’s mid-shift in the food prep unit. HOPE is standing at the large window in the food service workers’ empty dining hall. She watches as another inmate walks past the plate glass and stops to speak with a C/O. Flirtation and cutesy interactions ensue between the two of them.

HOPE:

(speaking to no one in particular)

How the fuck does she get away with this shit? Aren’t we locked down until…whenever because some judge is here, walking around and they don’t want any of these bitches talking to her and telling her what’s really goin’ on up in this place? I mean…if I was just wandering around I’d be cuffed and stuffed.

CHANDRA walks up and observes. Her expression says what she’s witnessing is common.

CHANDRA:

 My working theory is pregnancy.

HOPE:

Who’s pregnant?

CHANDRA:

Now? No one. But Adrienne was, I bet.

(Wondering who Adrienne is? Click here.)

HOPE:

(mulling it over)

Adrienne was preggo. Mmmm…

CHANDRA:

Well, I’m not 100% on it. But it’s my only theory now. I mean, if I were in court, I would be careful and say that it is my personal opinion, given what I’ve observed, that she was probably pregnant but I have no direct knowledge of her condition. You get me?

HOPE:

I still think she witnessed something real bad. Serious. Like criminal. Like a C/O beating someone.

CHANDRA:

Can’t be that. It’s not enough of a threat. If she reported something she saw, they’d just call her a liar, crazy.  The usual delusional.

HOPE:

Maybe she witnessed something and can tell the cops exactly where to look for it on the cameras. That’s evidence. Or maybe she has some paperwork.

CHANDRA:

Nah. They’ve searched her shit so many times, someone would have confiscated it. The guilty party or his friends…

HOPE:

Maybe it’s paperwork she sent out. I mean, just playing devil’s advocate here.

CHANDRA:

No one to send it to. Her husband’s doing time and her family doesn’t speak to her after what she did.

HOPE:

Maybe a lawyer?

CHANDRA:

They open legal mail. They’re not supposed to but…

(CHANDRA gives HOPE a knowing look.)

Would’ve confiscated it that way, too.

HOPE:

Maybe it’s not papers. Maybe she smuggled it out like the chick who smuggled out her toothbrush after she gave the guy [a C/O] a blow job?

CHANDRA.

(shaking head)

I’ve done my due diligence on this. She doesn’t get visitors so she can’t pass anything out. And if they open legal mail, they’ll definitely open an envelope that looks like it has a toothbrush, especially after last time.  It’s evidence she alone can control.

HOPE:

Like something inside her, like a baby.

CHANDRA:

Like something that’s guarded by HIPAA [Health Information Portability and Accountability Act]. Remember medical is UCONN, not DOC. They should have no access to her medical records.

HOPE:

So the evidence is in her chart. Okay, that works.

CHANDRA:
Except it’s not in her medical chart here. They’d break the law and Watergate the hell out of the medical records room to save their asses.

HOPE:

So, wait. It’s not in her file?

CHANDRA:

Here. Not in her file here.

HOPE:

I don’t. I don’t get it.

CHANDRA:

Abortions go to the local Planned Parenthood and their doctors don’t calculate the fact that she might have been in custody at the time of conception. They only care about the beginning of pregnancy to make sure they’re in the right trimester to do it. As long as they’re less than – what’s it 20, 24 weeks? – in, they don’t care about the beginning of pregnancy. They’re all about the end. And they might’ve fudged her DOC entry date when they took her over there.

HOPE:

That’s not in her chart here?

CHANDRA:

Nope. Because no one asked for it to be sent over. The OB here knows the deal and she’s mandated to report. Can’t report what you don’t know about.

HOPE:

Why don’t they just try to destroy the records or delete them there [at Planned Parenthood]?

CHANDRA:

Do you know how many pro-life nuts harass these people at Planned Parenthood? People shoot abortion providers and women who get the procedure. Planned Parenthood’s security is better than it is here. No one’s hacking their system or raiding their offices at night. Believe me.

HOPE:

But why would they bring her to a place where they have no control?

CHANDRA:

The best option. At least no one else can access it there either. No third parties gaining access to it. It’s in a vault with one key: her word. So they kiss her ass, let her get away with outrageous shit.

HOPE:

No, here’s the problem. She has no money. There’s no reason for her not to sue them. I mean, having sex with an inmate, getting her preggo, is rape. She’d clean up.

CHANDRA:
She has, like, 20 years to serve. Anything she’d win – and she’s not a sympathetic victim – would get eaten up by the cost of her incarceration. She’d end up with no money and nothing to hold over their heads. This way, she still has no money…but she gets whatever she wants. Still keeps the knife at their necks.

HOPE:

You really think a C/O got her pregnant?

CHANDRA:

C/O. Lieutenant. Captain. Warden. A fucking male nurse. Someone. We’re talking about is objective evidence, off prison grounds, and Adrienne is the only person who can pull the ripcord on it. And whatever it is, it’s serious, as in lose-your-job, lose-your-freedom, register-as-a-sex-offender serious.

HOPE:

I dunno.

CHANDRA:

Think about it. Only Adrienne has power over it. Off grounds. Undeniable evidence. Serious crime. Someone knocked her up in here. I’m telling you it’s pregnancy. At least, like I said, it’s my working theory.

HOPE:

Think it’s mine now, too.

CHANDRA

I’m telling you. That’s what it is.

Supervisor GREEN BAY walks into the dining hall and raises his hands in an open question after he sees his two employees watching essentially nothing very intently.

GREEN BAY:

Bozelko! Brooks! We’re pumping! Let’s go! Is this a parade or work?

CHANDRA:

Sorry, Green Bay. I was explaining my working theory for extreme favoritism in this place.

GREEN BAY:

Well, let’s try this on for a working theory: just work.

image

THREE IDEAS IN JUSTICE REFORM FROM MARCH 13 – 19, 2017

abortion

As if the reporter read Prison Diaries’ game plan, this week Vice News reported how hard it is for a woman to terminate a pregnancy while she’s incarcerated. There are no formal procedures as to how this gets accomplished in at least 20 states. Read the report here.

On Pi day, 3.14, the Prison Policy Initiative released its yearly “Whole Pie” graph of incarceration in the United States. “The American criminal justice system holds more than 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 901 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 76 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, and prisons in the U.S. territories,” the report said. They also found that 641,000 people leave prison every year. If they all stayed out…we’d solve this prison crisis quickly.

How much is a year of your life worth? If you’re wrongly incarcerated in Texas, you get $80,000 in compensation for every year you spent in prison. In Wisconsin? $5,000 per year. Michigan pays $50 K for every 365 days on the inside.

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)
SHARING IS CARINGShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePin on PinterestShare on TumblrPrint this page
13 March 2017

First and Last

SHARING IS CARINGShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePin on PinterestShare on TumblrPrint this page

favoritism 2

It would make it easier she had some redeeming feature. She’s not nice (she’s here for overdosing a teenage boy, letting him die, and then attempting to show remorse by saying she was glad that it didn’t happen to her family). She’s not sane (see description under ‘nice’). Hard-working? Nah, she sits around all day taking other inmates’ pills because she’s prohibited from working outside the unit. Good-looking? Nyet. She looks like Quagmire from Family Guy with hips as broad as beam. Former stripper, my ass.

imageTo this day, she freely admits that she tried to kill another inmate by putting battery acid in her coffee because she was mad at her and didn’t want her around anymore. So she tenderly split open a Double-A (which takes strength and dedication) and drained the liquid out into a cup of instant coffee and non-dairy creamer, a combination probably more lethal than the acid, but it’s the thought that counts. Rumor has it that she tried again when the acid didn’t work, using bleach-based scouring powder.

And nothing happened to her, besides a seven-day stint in seg. No charges for attempted murder. No real punishment. No message sent, except maybe one: Adrienne* will get away with murder, especially if it’s only attempted.

No woman on this compound can explain why the staff allows Adrienne to break so many rules so whoppingly. Their permissiveness has gone from merely suspicious to out-and-out conspiratorial on some of the C/O’s parts. Other guards remain as baffled as the rest of us as to why she goes north or south of consequences when they should zoom right at her.

You can’t analogize prison life with real life. I can’t explain why wearing a white T-shirt outside my cell can set the place in a tailspin. All I can say is that some things in prison are forbidden and the reasons for it are unbidden.

Adrienne’s specialty is the forbidden, a fact never forgotten as she cruises her tier in a snow-colored Hanes and none of the staff members say a word.

I still doubt I’ll ever be able to convey to people on the outside the stronghold Adrienne has, except through examples that they wouldn’t really understand.

OITNBS3_31OCT14_WHILDEN_0825.NEF
It’s like this, except you’re cuffed. And there’s no going back.

For instance, in here, if you’re on your way to seg, consider yourself arrived. By that I mean that, when they cuff you and trail you with a camera, you’re going no matter what injustice or error started your trip. Once during a “chronic sweep” – a posse of guards that rove the compound now and again to pick up women with severe discipline records in the same way that tape collects lint – the posse picked up the wrong Inmate Columbo. There are two here: S. Columbo and M. Columbo, and they mistook S for M. Even though someone might have realized the error mid-transfer, trading S for M on the way to the restricted housing unit would be unheard of. S would sit in seg while the fine detail fact-checking took place and M was rounded up. No seg trip ever stops for any reason to let someone go. Unless it’s Adrienne.

As the legend goes, while C/O’s escorted Adrienne to seg once, one on each side gripping an arm, trailed by a lieutenant and someone with a camera, she somehow caught the attention of a deputy warden through the window of his office. He came out and ordered his men to let her go. Take her back. Two opposing orders but that wasn’t why the Deputy Warden’s command shocked everyone. The Let Her/Take Her awed everyone because no one ever short circuits a seg-walk. Never. This was the first time it would happen, as only Adrienne wields serious power in here, and the last straw for people who expect any fairness in this facility.

Everyone – inmates and staff alike – assume that Adrienne’s got the goods on some higher up. Different names get tossed into the theory and we’re all probably right.

favoritism3But Adrienne’s reign teaches a more important lesson than just that the brass has clay feet. She proves that the worst inmates get the best treatment. I have yet to figure out why this happens. I think it might be the same type of phenomenon where adults allow a bully to push around younger smaller tykes. They know what they’re witnessing is wrong and they undoubtedly have the power to stop it but they are either too scared of the bully themselves or they’re so secretly sick themselves that they like what they’re watching.

I think that’s what’s happening in here. Some of the C/O’s are scared of Adrienne – after all, her offenses aren’t making fun of someone’s hair or pushing someone off the jungle gym; Adrienne would kill someone without compunction. Other guards like the fact that she terrorizes the rest of general population because they hate us all.

I don’t begrudge anyone a little leniency. Mercy is good.  But it can veer into favoritism, preferential treatment, which is anathema in a well-run prison. What’s good for one is good for all – that’s how a good prison runs.

But this place isn’t a good prison if you watch who gets the partiality. For the most part, women here for the most heinous crimes are very well-behaved and remorseful, a fact that only compounds the tragedy of their actions since they clearly were out of character and precipitated by illness, trauma, rage. Regardless of how we comport ourselves, the guards make fun of us for what they think we did to get here, except for that extreme exemption for people who took others’ lives and couldn’t give a shit less about what they did.  These chicks run the joint. Once during a lockdown I saw a few women just wandering around on the walkway. They strolled into the garden. No one should have been outside the unit and these people were meandering. I know each of their convictions and counted them up: Felony Murder, Murder 2, Manslaughter, Capital Felony Murder, Capital Felony Murder.

When a C/O came to pass out the lunch trays since the rest of us couldn’t even leave our cells, much less the structure they sat in, I cocked my thumb toward my window and asked him:

“So, what exactly does someone have to do to get fresh air around here? Would a Criminally Negligent Homicide conviction free me a little?”

He ran to a bigger window in the rec area and saw the Kill Squad roaming around. Shook his head.

“I know, Bozelko. No one stops them.”

When they’re actually inside and among us lesser sinners, they issue commands to guards…who actually follow them. They ask for extra. They get it. They wear uniforms tailored in ways that would have lieutenants running after the rest of us, screaming “Those are altered!” But no one says anything to them.

When one of them (an inmate who killed a woman in a gang-inspired fight) tried to make her own psych records on the library computer to show her girlfriend how much she’d suffered in life, they brought her to a shrink (which was apropos because it was nuts that she thought medical records were written in dialogue like a screenplay), but anyone else would have been in the hole, with no U-turn. When it comes to privileges, murder means more. I don’t suggest that women with homicide convictions should be denied, but they shouldn’t be deified, either; none of us should be, especially if we’re misbehaving. Regardless of what they do in here, the incorrigible lifers pretty much get what they want.

pre-crime
Where are these people when you need ’em?

Except Adrienne isn’t a lifer. Yes, someone who killed a child and continues to try to whack people has only a 17-year sentence for manslaughter. And she gets special meals brought to her from the outside, gifts, declarations of love from C/O’s at her door (not even kidding – there’s something wrong with those guys).  And she’ll skate on post-prison consequences for her behavior. Unlike sex offenders who leave prison to civil commitment – a Minority Report-style Precrime confinement – because some turnkey decided that they’re constitutionally incapable of reform and rehabilitation and will reoffend, Adrienne gets cut loose a little before 2023.

Adrienne’s not going to reform herself. She pumps out daily a trove of evidence similar to that used to justify civil commitment of sex-offenders, namely proof that she will never change. Yet when her sentence ends, it will do just that: end, mostly because she killed a kid instead of screwing one. I don’t condone any crime against children, but it looks like the very worst among us get away with murder and are exempt from having to redeem themselves simply because they’re murderers.

I guess she has one redeeming quality: by herself, Adrienne shows how backwards this system is. She’s the alpha and omega of correctional corruption.

* Names have been changed to protect the innocent – as well as the author when “Adrienne” gets out.

THREE IDEAS IN JUSTICE REFORM FROM MARCH 6 – 12, 2017

exoneration

Clean slates come too late. At least 166 men and women were exonerated in 2016, six more than in 2015, which also was a record year, announced the National Registry of Exonerations on Wednesday. There were more exonerations than ever before in cases involving guilty pleas, or misconduct by government officials, or where no crimes occurred at all. And most of the defendants were black.

We have a two-tiered justice system. The Los Angeles Times and The Marshall Project teamed up in investigating the “pay-to-stay” jail system in Southern California. Wealthier inmates can pay for upgrades into cleaner facilities with more amenities, or, well, just amenities. The reporters found “more than 160 participants who had been convicted of serious crimes including assault, robbery, domestic violence, battery, sexual assault, sexual abuse of children and possession of child pornography” were in the VIP section of SoCal jails. The payers include “a hip-hop choreographer who had sex with an underage girl and described his stint in jail as “a retreat;” a former Los Angeles police officer who stalked and threatened his ex-wife; and a college student who stabbed a man in the abdomen during a street scuffle. The highest bill — $72,050 — belonged to a man responsible for a drunken freeway crash that killed one of his passengers and left another injured.”

Everything old is new again. A bipartisan coalition of senators introduced a bill to establish a National Criminal Justice Commission – a complete knock-off of one that former U.S. Senator/presidential candidate Jim Webb proposed twice, once eight years ago and once six years ago –  and two of the new bill’s sponsors [Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)] voted on with a “Nay.” This just goes to show that the more you understand this system, the more you realize change is necessary. People come around over time.

Oh yeah, and “Gary from Chicago” got a “hisself” a publicist.

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (1)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)
SHARING IS CARINGShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePin on PinterestShare on TumblrPrint this page
6 March 2017

Correspondingly

SHARING IS CARINGShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePin on PinterestShare on TumblrPrint this page

image

“Are ‘large’ and ‘hard’ sa…sin…synonyms?” one of the students asked me when I was typing in the back of her classroom.

“According to men they are, but not really,” I answered. She didn’t get the joke. Maybe she was too young.

“What are they?” she asked.

“They’re adjectives, you know, descriptors,” I tried to explain. I always go into a mode when I’m asked about adult basic education. I try to be as complete as possible.

“No, syn…synonyms.”

“They’re words that are different but have the same meaning. You understand what I mean? Like ‘auto’ and ‘car’ are different words but they mean the same thing. They’re synonyms.”

She shrugged and turned back to a math ditto. She’s taking the GED test soon.

A lot of prison students make Welcome Back Kotter’s “Sweathogs” look like Rhodes Scholars.  Despite teachers’ best efforts, students in the GED program here [at York Correctional Institution] think that Nelson Mandela took the first steps on the moon.  They think Maryland is in California. They think Christopher Columbus drove a car: a Pinto. The Nina and the Santa Maria don’t sound like motor vehicles so they’re off the hook.

kotter
All large and hard.

And many of them earned still their GED’s because scoring a total of 225 out of 500 on the five-part test, with no score less than 40 on any individual part, is all it takes. Unlike passing grade standards in traditional high schools, GED students must score only 40% to pass.  Unsurprisingly, 70% of inmates remain in the lowest two of the five levels of literacy, even after receiving their GED’s, according to a 2007 study by the Department of Education’s National Center of Education Statistics.  With these results, the GED barely earns status as a rubber stamp.  In many ways, taking college courses in prison may be the only way for an inmate to achieve a high school education even – especially – if she earns her GED in here.

York doesn’t offer any more courses that will cure their knowledge deficits. Once you’ve scored 41% on your GED, you’re allowed to go into vocational programs like culinary arts, commercial cleaning, computer/data entry skills, and hospitality training for the hotel and restaurant industry so you can get a job where you can barely afford a Pinto.

And if there isn’t a huge offering of college classes – ones that will contain people who don’t know what synonyms are – the only option for learning is correspondence courses.

mademoiselleThese schools used to advertise in the back of Glamour and Mademoiselle when I was in high school, offering master’s degrees and Ph.D.’s. I think  one of the names had “Pacific” in it or it was on the west coast. I can’t remember. Over 90% of distance education is available only online now and we don’t have internet access. Who else but an inmate would take a paper-bound correspondence course these days? If anyone who isn’t incarcerated is enrolled in one of these paper and envelope courses, I want to meet him or her. I want to see how a person can be that outside of society’s flow and not bear an inmate number.

The only way we would even know about these courses is that Wally [Lamb] bought a book about them  -“Prisoners’ Guerrilla Handbook to Correspondence Programs in the United States and Canada” – and he donated it to the library. The handbook contains, like, 10 programs which matches the fact that it was published, like, 10 years ago and it costs over 100 bucks. And these degree programs cost $185 per credit; bachelor’s degrees require 120 credits. So an entire degree costs about $22,000 cash when you go through a correspondence school. A community college in Connecticut charges about five thousand for full time enrollment. An associates degree would cost about 10K. Continuing on to a bachelors would probably cost about the same as a correspondence course degree.

But inmates don’t get a campus, teachers, school atmosphere, camaraderie, intellectual discussion, a gym, a student center, academic support or anything else a normal student would get for the same amount of money. And forget student loans and scholarships; those Pell Grants have been gone for almost 2o years. What are the chances of someone who can’t afford a lawyer being able to afford this education? Prisoners’ only saving grace is just another commodity where traders exploit our isolation to make money. These correspondence schools are probably lobbying to keep internet access out of prisons to stop inmates from floating to Coursera or iTunes University and getting their learn on for free.

imageDown from the 350 programs that operated in forty-five states in 1982, the all-time high, currently only twelve in-prison college education programs operate in four states. Distance learning continues to be a prisoner’s most viable educational opportunity, so the need for internet connection is even more pronounced for inmates, 85% percent of them so poor they can’t afford sneakers, much less tuition in a profit-motivated school.  As long as we remain unconnected, the electronic wave hitting higher education washes over prisons and recedes, leaving them desolate oases of ignorance. It’s no wonder no one says “Welcome back” when we get out. We’re not much better or smarter, at least not as long as this place stays educationally unplugged.

I keep wondering where the holes are in these GED curricula. What else don’t they know as they brag about a graduation? I doubt many women here could calculate how badly I date myself by readily referencing Welcome Back Kotter, dittoes and Mademoiselle magazine which hasn’t been in published in years even if I told them the years when those things were common to our culture. Can you tell I’ve been offline for years?

Even with a GED program, the knowledge deficits in a prison are large. If someone just wired this place, eliminating them wouldn’t be that hard. At least I hope not.

THREE IDEAS IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE FROM FEBRUARY 27 – MARCH 5, 2017

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 26: Host Jimmy Kimmel (L) surprises tourist with an entrance tothe 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

If you’re like me, you’re sick of the Sessions/immigration news. We forget that things unfold outside the Beltway, too.

Gary Coe or “Gary from Chicago,” one of the surprised tourists whom Jimmy Kimmel paraded through the Dolby Theatre during the Oscars last Sunday, was discovered to have a pretty severe criminal record, including a conviction for attempted rape. Gary’s is actually a pretty amazing story. He was sentenced to life under California’s “three strikes” law and had his sentence modified recently. The only reason why he was able to leave Corcoran, a men’s prison, last Friday was that California’s Proposition 36, passed in 2012,  allowed him to show a court how much he had rehabilitated himself in prison. Despite this reform, Coe has already faced discrimination. The Chicago Sun Times was the only paper to report that Jimmy Kimmel Live! canceled Gary’s appearance because of his criminal record. For shame, Kimmel.

The second deadly prison riot in two years popped off in Nebraska, at the same facility, Tecumseh State Prison. Two inmates were killed on Thursday and at least one of them was convicted of a sexual offense. The two inmates killed in May 2015 were also convicted of sexual assault. These aren’t prison riots, they’re highly choreographed executions of certain offenders. Let’s not make this about prison conditions.

There are only about 2200 prisoners in Vermont and the state wants to build a $140 million prison, which amounts to spending $63,636 per inmate on a new building. I will never understand Vermont.

 

 

 

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (1)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (1)
SHARING IS CARINGShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePin on PinterestShare on TumblrPrint this page