12 February 2018

Heart Failure

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“I would marry him in a heartbeat,” Carly sighed as the C/O walked off the tier after touring, peeping Tom-style.

“You know C/O Geralds? He married an inmate,” Sybil shared with all of us and none.

“Where? In visits?” Carly asked. I could see her scheming, weddingchannel.com-style.

“No, when she went home,” Sybil scoffed at her.

“I thought that was rape ‘n shit.”

“It’s not an assault if someone’s out of custody,” I explained. “It is if she’s in here or on parole.”

There’s really no prohibition on contact between people who aren’t incarcerated or on parole and prison staff. The First Amendment’s freedom of association allows an inmate and a guard to do whatever they want together…when she’s not an inmate anymore. But it’s far less common than you’d expect.

“No, no. [C/O] Lafleur told me once if he sees me on the outside he’s going to call the cops, so they’re not allowed to have any contact with us when we go home,” Cherry chimed in.

Cherry was partially right. Lafleur would call the cops on her to get her away from him. Plus, as a woman sentenced to 40 years, if he saw her outside before 2025, she’d be lamming it, having escaped, so yes, he would call the police, but not because correctional liaisons are outlawed outside the walls.

“There’s no prohibition on it. I think you might be misinterpreting what he said,” I suggested.

“Then the way they be tryin’ a fuck us in here, why don’t they just wait ’til we get out when there’s no chance they can get in trouble?” Carly asked. “Must be something they can get in trouble for,” she added.

The reason why the undue familiarity rule of no social, romantic or physical contact between inmate and staff extends beyond these walls is recidivism. If they all hounded women home, they’d have to disclose it later when she re-offends and comes back. So what’s totally legal is “frowned upon” because of the headache of paperwork and reassignments when women inevitably get back in trouble. Recidivism is the romance killer.

And because they know recidivism is virtually guaranteed, they stay away so they won’t have to disclose it later when some woman blabs as she starts a new bid. When they rape someone in here, they know she won’t say shit. But a semi-valid date at a place like a Red Lobster? She’ll tell everyone when she lands back inside. All this proves to me is that they can abstain when they’re motivated enough. The humiliation they’ll feel once they’re found out for deigning to date one of us motivates them.

I saw this happen once. I don’t know if the woman had been here before or not. All I know is that she’d dubbed herself “Fatty Girl” and I watched as she quietly approached a lieutenant, spoke to him briefly and didn’t say anything else. The lieutenant walked from the tier to the officers’ desk, said about 20 words and the C/O picked up his backpack and walked out. He couldn’t have been fired; they wouldn’t do that where people like me could watch. Besides, it was too calm and amicable to be serious.

Even though it didn’t wreak of chaos, I’d still wondered what that disclosure was about because I was waiting to get on the phone. I needed to know if we were about to get locked in our cells.

“What happened? Why’d [C/O] Clarkson walk out?” I asked Fatty Girl, real low.

“Oh, nothing. There’s no problem. I worked at the Henny Penny and he came in once and we was talkin’ and we fucked in the bathroom. Excuse me, restroom,” she corrected herself as if the problem in that sentence was word choice.

I’d heard about the Henny Penny [a local convenience store]. It’s where the guards stop by and get one-gallon jugs of spring water before their summer shifts in sealed, sweltering pods, cigarettes for after a 16-hour stint, soda and gas. One C/O switched cars with another in the Henny Penny parking lot to make it seem like he was driving a loaner after he lied to a captain about getting in a car accident out-of-state so he wouldn’t get called in to cover for someone else; I overheard them talking about it. C/O’s are banging the cashiers in the loo. The Henny Penny is hoppin’ with prison guard capers. Luckily, I live far enough away from this area that avoiding it when I get out won’t be too hard.

But I can tell, if word gets out about this, that many women will flock there at about 6:30 AM and 3:30 PM, before and after the first shift. 2:30 and 11:30 PM, before and after the second shift. To seek out hanky panky at the Henny Penny with C/O’s who’ll have sex with them in here even though it’s statutory rape but avoid them when it’s legal.

“So if they don’t wanna fuck with us when we get out, then how they ever find out if we’re doin’ good?” Carly continued.

It was a valid question I never thought of. The only evidence that the people who work here that this system is working, that what they’re doing matters, never reaches them. They don’t get to see the inmate who leaves and stays clean and gets a job, and married, has kids. That show-off element of reunions doesn’t exist in prison. You’re gone and you’re on your own, even in success.

I think I understand why the staff are such dicks and heckle women with “You’ll be back!” and turn it into a siren song to draw them back. Imagine if the only thing you saw about your work was how you failed and your successes were kept secret from you.

Because their careers are reflected to them as epic fails, the guards’ workday is no love song; it’s a dirge. No wonder they’re so fucked up that they party at a place like the Henny Penny.

THREE IDEAS IN JUSTICE FROM FEBRUARY 4 – 11, 2018

Valentine’s Day is this Wednesday and many people aren’t aware of its association with criminal justice. Saint Valentine was imprisoned and eventually executed for performing Christian marriages – that’s his association with romantic love.  Read more about what else this Inmate Valentine did while he was inside. Hint: the miracles that qualified him for beatification. Great things can come from inside.

Puerto Rican officials may be forced to ship prisoners to the mainland because of the budget crisis on the island – but not because of Hurricane Irma. Not only is this bad news for the families of those whose loved ones are locked up, it shows that Puerto Rico doesn’t really care about the people it incarcerates.

Lastly and most importantly, read this essay in In Justice Today about transformative justice. Actually, it’s less essay and more anthem. This is what reformers are talking about. While you’re reading, think about what you would want if you were accused of crime, #metoo misconduct or anything, really.

THIS WEEK’S EXPLAINER: LFO’s

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5 February 2018

Party Animals

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Anyone in Wally [Lamb’s] writing class can go to the back of Ms. Manor’s classroom and type their work. It’s usually just me and I can work with only the sounds of remedial education behind me.  But when another writer comes in, she’s never quiet. When two writers start talking, they end up picking off students from the GED class as they fold into the backroom conversation.  There erupts a bevy of ideas, news, analysis. A veritable Roman forum.

This morning, Trixie came in and did her town crier-schtick, bringing news about something that either doesn’t exist or an event that never happened so she can stay connected to people in a place of eliminated relevance.

“You heard? They passed a new law that says that if you have a party and someone at your house gets stabbed or shot you get in trouble, too.”

“If by ‘they’ you mean the Connecticut General Assembly, I don’t think they passed a law. I think you mean premises liability and it’s not new,” I informed her without averting my eyes from the screen.

“For real, yo? My moms said she was gonna give me a party when I came home. Guess it’s a wrap,” lamented one of the students who was listening to us instead of the class. “Don’t want my mom endin’ up in this bitch [the prison] behind some bullshit at my party.”

It’s a latent, unexamined assumption here: violence will deliver itself somewhere. Sartre argued that the “milieu of scarcity” generates human conflict, but, if this conversation is any indication, it might just be a ‘partizzle’ [party] that does it. I thought that Malcolm X said violence is inevitable because it’s the means to liberation. Both Jean Paul and Mr. X are wrong; apparently, violence is just inevitable, even in the freedom and excess of a partay.  So inevitable, in fact, that women in this prison can’t conceive of a homecoming party without an attempted murder party favor.

No Bozelko party – there were many – ever ended in fisticuffs or people laying hands on each other. But there was a form of violence. Every gathering in my parents’ home was prefaced by fighting about perfect preparation. We used snide and low tones to warn the others to get ice or start pulling out the poinsettias we had for departing female guests (stockings with coal for the men because we’re so cheeky). No one got stabbed or shot but we were all wounded after these events. Violence comes in many forms. So, yeah, it’s inevitable.  I can’t pull myself out of this one with a class distinction.

Anyone who overheard this convo would think that the people in the room were dangerous, inherently animalistic. But it’s not that simple; what that person would have heard is the result of living in a world without solicitude.  Think about it in a purely logical way. What rids us of conflict? Agreement, obviously. We can’t all see things the same way but we can get close to that goal by seeing how someone else might see something.  And that’s empathy. Empathy can eliminate conflict and pave peace’s way. Only when people believe peace can prevail – and see it in real time – will they move away from thinking violence is inevitable. After hearing this party talk, I wanted to be shocked or disgusted. Dismayed. Scared. Instead, I’m only more convinced that only compassion – not judgment – will make us safer in a world where the words “soiree” and “shooting” go together.

“I may not look like it, but I’ve been to a lot of parties. And no one’s been shot or stabbed at any of them,” I explained. “Not one.”

“Metal detectors?” the student asked.

“Nope, no metal detectors. You can have a good party without gunplay. Or knives,” I advised them like I was sharing how to make an easy appetizer.

And I still can’t believe I had to say that but I did.

THREE IDEAS IN JUSTICE REFORM FROM JANUARY 29 – FEBRUARY 4 , 2018

Regardless who you were rooting for last night, let’s not forget that the Philadelphia Eagles win the Bowl for most work done for justice reform, especially Malcolm Jenkins.

It was a fleeting mention – just one sentence –  but President Trump actually acknowledged a prison reform agenda in his first State of the Union address. “…[T]his year we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance.” The promise came less than three weeks after the Governors of Kansas Kentucky joined the President, Jared Kushner and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other leaders to focus on what has worked at the state level to reduce recidivism. Let’s see how he follows through on it.

Also, click to tweet: Republican voters are actually turning against law enforcement. 

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled on Thursday that the disenfranchisement of people with criminal records who have served their time is “nonsensical” and a violation of the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The decision came just in time since restoring the vote to felons was going to be on the ballot in Florida this November after Floridians for a Fair Democracy snagged 799,000 signatures, 49,000 more than they needed (if you live in Florida and signed, muchas gracias). Looks like felons might get to vote for their own rights.

EXPLAINER: PRISON LABOR

Yes, it’s my voice on here. There’s a reason I don’t often do radio. And the music is too loud. Trying to fix, but the message is still there.

 

 

 

 

 

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