Ignore the Words
“Jesus!” I shouted to no one and jumped back when I heard a creature rustling in the dumpster at the end of the medical unit. I looked not to see a raccoon or a rat, but an inmate who had Pica disease; Pica sufferers have abnormal cravings for things that aren’t food – “non-nutritive” is the official description. Other people told me they’d seen her eating items like pencils and a used Band-Aid from the trash.
She had exposed herself to discipline by being “out of place” – in an area unauthorized for inmates. Justice tempted me to run over to the guard and explain what I knew about this woman’s Pica disease so she would not be punished, but injustice reminded me that rushing to her aid like that would land me in trouble, too. I looked around – no other pseudo-Samaritans to pinch hit for me. Would they even have known even if they were on the walkway.
“Get over here now!”
The woman moved to him sheepishly; she had clearly been embarrassed before.
“What in the Lord’s name were you doing in the trash?”
“I was hungry,” she answered, eyes still downcast.
“Gimme your ID,” he told her. This is the official notice to a prisoner that she’s screwed – the C/O needs her inmate number and name for the disciplinary report.
Whatsoever you do to the least of my people… I knew I had to Good Samaritan this whole scene, risk my own ticket and inform the guard that this woman suffered from a mental illness that caused her to, well, eat shit. I started towards them slowly – which put me out of place, too – and watched the guard walk into the back of the dining hall and order the woman to follow him. The kitchen was the closest location for blank disciplinary reports.
Rehearsing what I would say: Umm…hi…she, the one you’re writing the ticket for…she has Pica…which means that…ok, so you know about it… that it’s like not really her fault, she…has an illness…she wasn’t trying to disobey any rules or, you know, disrespect anyone…. I wondered what the best response would be if he told me: “I don’t care.” It was hardly a robust defense I had planned out.
I thought he’d jot down her prison vitals and dismiss her. Instead, as I peered in the kitchen, I saw him hand her ID to the kitchen staff who promptly loaded up a Styrofoam tray with leftovers from lunch. The guard directed the woman to sit at a table with a napkin and eat to her fill in a dignified way.
Realizing that I wasn’t needed, but still out of place, I started to scurry away before he saw me. I turned my head one way to see if any staff was around to question why I was outside the kitchen and ended up bumping into one of the white columns on the walkway.
I hope no one was watching me from one of the housing units as I crept behind those two, did a brief peeping Tom routine through the kitchen’s back door and then ran into a pole. It would have looked too bizarre, so crazy that the whole scene might have exculpated me from the crimes I’m here for. Who? Her? She never could have pulled that off…. Sometimes a situation sounds harsh or looks senseless because we don’t understand that the players’ intentions are good.
“Damned fools,” I heard the C/O say behind me as he exited the back of the kitchen. I never understood if those was cursing the inmates in the facility or the people who run it with their misguided concern for inmates with special needs – the name would apply to both – but it hardly matters. Those were just his words. What he did told me everything I needed to know.
THREE IDEAS IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM FROM JANUARY 11-17, 2016
Everyone thought President Obama would focus on criminal justice reform in his last State of the Union address, but the topic got only eleven words out of 5000+. I don’t think he’s the leader everyone thinks he is on this issue.
The Supreme Court of the United States struck down Florida’s death penalty in Hurst v. Florida. What the Court didn’t touch was the fact that it only takes seven of twelve jurors to vote for execution for you to get the death penalty in the Sunshine State – it’s okay for five people who’ve heard all the evidence to think you shouldn’t die. And they still kill you.
A former prisoner is convicted of attempting to smuggle drugs and other contraband into the prison in Maryland, items worth $35,000 on the penal black market. A riot almost broke out in an Ohio prison this summer after a drone drop. No one’s smuggling the old-fashioned way anymore – in a body cavity. Drones are the new ass.