8 February 2016

Slice of Life

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I’ve never understood cutting because I’ve never done it.  I understand self-hatred but mine was never bad enough to cause me to score lines and profanities into my skin.

Sharp-HC-cover-202x300A guy who published a memoir, Sharp, that details his own struggle with cutting and self-harm, came to speak in the library at Wally [Lamb’s] behest.

The story of how the memoir got published interests me more than the story inside the book. This man, David Fitzpatrick, wrote to Wally from a psychiatric hospital. They struck up a pen pal friendship for the next twenty years that culminated in Wally’s helping him convince HarperCollins to spend the dough to duplicate his story a couple hundred thousand times.

I still don’t really understand cutting after his talk. I can comprehend that self-mutilation is a remarkably efficient assault; the victim and the aggressor are always the same person. But beyond that, I can’t really be moved by these stories; they’re too far removed from my reality for me to form a feeling or opinion on them.

Plus, to be honest, I always thought that the cutting was the Theatre Arts Department in Cry for Help Academy; the idea that a cutter needs to see blood, needs to have these scars, in order to validate their pain is too dramatic for me. Seriously, everything else in your life isn’t enough that you’ve got to add a biohazard cleanup? I mean, I think I’m much more efficient and ethical in my pain when I just scream at people and don’t drip anything on the floor.

When Fitzpatrick finished his talk, prison nurses exercised an abundance of caution by coming to the library and announcing that anyone triggered into potential self-harm by our guest speaker should come with them for some preventive counseling.

imageThen, like a crowd outside Walmart on Black Friday, women swarmed to the nurses. All of a sudden everyone was a cutter.

“You are not a cutter,” I said to one as she passed me.

“Yes I am!” She was defensive, not about cutting, but about not cutting. She wasn’t going to be left out.

A really young inmate, thin as a pipe cleaner, sat in the chairs near the windows, behind typewriters’ formerly shiny keyboards now dulled with dust.

“Guess you’re not a cutter?” I asked her. She shook her head.

“I wish,” she peeped.

imageDoes this chick understand what I’ve just asked her? Maybe she’s not too Sharp. She wants a personality disorder that she may have already dodged? Does she think that ridging your arms to the point they look like dryer hoses is a good thing?

“You wish? Wow. Well, maybe if you tell them you pick your scabs they’ll soften their standards and let you in,” I advised her. She didn’t get the joke.

Psychologists say that as many as 85% of women are into cutting. The remaining 15% of women must be every woman I’ve ever met prior to prison since I have never known one – or at least had one admit it to me. I think the 85% estimate is a little high, especially if it relies on self-report of self-injury. I’ll bet 75% of that 85% just said yes when asked if they cut just to belong to a group, as screwed-up as that group may be.

The message of you’re just like everyone else…is supposed to make people feel better, less lonely. Fitzpatrick said one therapist probed his isolation by asking “[W]hat do you fear that lies inside that is so damn different and awful?” to make him cut and mutilate himself when everybody hurts.

Yo! You a cutter? Bozelko is third from right.

But telling sick, desperate people that they’re not alone can be dangerous; they can interpret it as reason to succumb to peer pressure.  Knowing your humanity and weakness are not unique isn’t supposed to be a cattle call, an invitation to the Batshit Bandwagon.

Clearly I’m not like everyone else. I don’t cut. I don’t want to lie about slicing my skin. I don’t like mental health services because I don’t like the attention. I’m good with my singularity. As long as I’m in prison with people I don’t really respect.

I’ve said so many times that the prison mental health epidemiology and statistics are inaccurate – women claim to hear voices because they think it’ll give them an advantage in court. They complain of mania in exchange for the sedation brought on by anti-psychotic meds. They claim they commit sin against their skin just to go along with everyone else.

imageJust doing a “check-in” or taking a clinical history of mental illness has the power of suggestion and women desperate for approval and inclusion say they have every symptom or behavior even if they don’t. Especially if they don’t.

I always bitch that women don’t get enough mental health treatment in prison but is it possible they get too much? I never realized how hard it must be to offer services to a collection of women whose self-esteem is so low that they can’t bring themselves actually to self-mutilate, only to say that they do…just so they can sit in a shrink’s office.




Alicia Keys sent a video Valentine to Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan asking him to schedule floor time for federal criminal justice bills to be debated and voted upon. Ryan agreed and no one, no one, no one can change the way she feels about him. Except maybe me when I explain to her how Congressional criminal justice bills are inadequate. But she should already know if she’s recording public service announcements .

The first doctor in the United States convicted of murder for overprescribing drugs was sentenced in a California courtroom to 30 years in prison.

David Sweat, one of the two escapees from Clinton Correctional Institution in Dannemora, was sentenced to seven to fourteen years for three crimes related to his escape. Sweat was also ordered to pay approximately $79,000 for the damage done to the prison when he and Richard Matt sawed through walls and pipes to skedaddle. How likely is it that Sweat can come up with 80K from solitary confinement?

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20 October 2014

The Euthyphro Dilemma

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stripper outline

“Do you think that these people would even try this stuff on the outside?” I asked as we folded clothes, dilemmacovering the laundry worker’s duties while she visited with her family.

“Course not.  He had a nurse in the room with him.  They’re complicit.  They cover up for each other in here,”  Charity answered.

“Do you think they’re attracted to places like this?” I returned.  She nodded glumly.  I was a bit sickened, too.  I usually like it when I see something I’ve studied in school turn up in reality but now that I saw the Euthyphro Dilemma from one of my philosophy classes in a real-life application, I practically needed a doctor.

Euthyphro, typical prosecutor
Euthyphro, typical prosecutor

The Euthyphro Dilemma is a philosophy lesson from the classical philosopher Socrates who asked a prosecutor in Greece 2500 years ago this question:  Are people pious because God loves them or does God love people because they are pious?  It’s the ancient world’s version of “Who’s zoomin’ who?”  The dilemma pops up daily in modern criminal justice – and not because Euthyphro was a prosecutor – because a new form of his dilemma has developed:  Do guards/correctional personnel abuse offenders because they’re lawbreakers or do offenders break the laws because their keepers abuse them?  Or, in larger focus, do perps make victims or do victims make perps?

Best positioned to answer me was Dr. Staley, the prison’s head physician, but he was out of paging range since the facility had canned him for sexually inappropriate contact with inmates disguised as physical examinations.  The good doctor required my neighbor, whose chronic shoulder injury needed checking, to remove completely her bra and uniform T-shirt so he could see her upper arm.gloves

Then he zinged my cellmate with a rectal exam when she complained of heart palpitations.  Not only did the good doctor violate his patient, he also committed an act of malpractice because digital rectal examinations engage the vagus nerve which innervates the lower abdomen as well as the thoracic area, meaning where her palpitating heart was.  The doctor’s sexy rectal exam could have triggered hypertensive effects that might have complicated or worsened the symptoms that slid the inmate into his medical melee in the first place. Remember doc: what happens to the vagus nerve does not stay on the vagus nerve.

Days after learning of  the medical professional’s departure, I heard that one of the prison chaplains had a near-rectal exam when the warden booted his ass for throwing a book at an inmate, misconduct I personally found redundant given the fact that the Book of Law chases every prisoner inside these walls.

stripper bentThe Euthyphro dilemma weighed on me heavily post-Sandy Hook.  Because rampage killers are obviously nuts in ways we either won’t understand or can’t predict, Adam Lanza put everyone on an unfair and misplaced high alert about people with both diagnosed and undiagnosed mental illnesses; we think anyone with psychiatric problems is about to victimize someone.  The stigma that follows from these unreasonable precautions does nothing to stop crime, to stop victimization.  Actually, it reverses the perp and the victim.  By that I mean that people diagnosed with mental illness are statistically predispositioned to be victims of crime, not purveyors of it.  The truth is that a person burdened with sub-par mental health is much more likely found at the short end of crime’s stick than carrying a big one and mumbling softly.  When one considers that an untold percentage of prisoners suffer from mental illness, a prison becomes a rich reservoir of potential victims.  So plentiful is a prison’s confines with easy marks that I think word circulates in creep coteries and they log on to the Department of Correction’s website, find the Employment page and click “Apply.”vagas

The reason for this phenomenon is obvious:  the victim’s diminished credibility (at least in society’s estimation), bad judgment and lack of social supports suture themselves together to create the 21st century’s version of Frankenstein’s miscreation:  the person to whom you can do anything and get away with it.  For instance, the prison’s own Trapper John would not have done to a patient in the free world what he did in here to a woman complaining of kidney pain, namely a pelvic examination of her while standing and leaning against a wall, legs spread and undies undone.  He never ordered a blood draw or palpated her back, he only did this stripper move with her as clinical inquiry.  Doc, you are so Vegas!

It’s possible that working with herds of manipulative women turns people who work behind bars into predators.  Exhaustion and depletion arrive after long exposure to incarcerated chicks and would cause a halfway normal guard to quit, transfer, or change his post so as not to turn into an animal.  If it’s true that victims make perps, i.e. exposure to certain disenfranchised populations drives their keepers so mad that they end up harming the people they are supposed to protect, then the process of rehabilitation is not one of improvement but of institutionalization for anyone with any affiliation with the institution.  In short, if prisons can ruin guards in this way, imagine what it does to the prisoners.

throwing bookThe warden terminated Dr. Feelgood and the Pitching Pastor but neither has been charged with a crime.  That malady we call an arrest should fit into the doctor’s occupational prognosis but he has the antidote:  power.  Even though the physician is obviously mental, his medical license and education mask (sort of) his insanity.  At the very least, they mitigate his lunacy. And the chaplain who works with prisoners? Everyone sees him as unblemished because he wades into the muck of mental illness and criminality for forty hours each week.

I was impressed that the warden fired the doctor and the chaplain; usually misconduct by staff never takes a collar because the inmates who report witnessing misconduct are discredited by the fact that they are inmates who witnessed the misconduct. Then I discovered that the warden had “objective evidence” of their misdeeds:  a report from a nurse in the examining room with the doctor and a video of the chaplain’s pitching practice.  Apparently, no one had covered up for the doc when his check-ups no longer had any checks on them.  Maybe the book the chaplain threw was the Bible and he pissed off a God-fearing guard who reported him. But the saddest part of Dr. Staley’s service was the fact that no inmates, fearing investigators would not believe them,  reported either the doctor or the chaplain because they did not know that what they were experiencing was against the law.

“My mother never took me to a doctor! How was I  supposed to know?” one woman in the kitchen confided in her friend, a bit too loudly, when she described how Dr. Staley asked her to take off her shirt to examine her thyroid, an assessment that takes place above the collar.

I wondered how many other stripper-style exams and deflected shots happened that only the inmate witnessed. Those will remain unreported. Did only reported incidents ever happen or did incidents that are not reported never happen? Another correctional daily dilemma.

Hopefully with us non-credible women out of the way as witnesses, the warden has a clean line of sight to throw the book back at both men and lock them up, making them ready to be pounced upon by other predators.  Letting them roam free with stethoscope and crucifix would only prove that I’m right; they will never pull this crap with women outside the prison, women who are not inmates.

“You’re right, Charity. Perps make only certain people their victims.”



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