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.


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.


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Posted February 12, 2018 by chandra in category "Recidivism

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