The Village Idiot Arrives.
There is certainly no shortage of dumb policies and procedures in prison. One that had a direct effect on me this week was the way in which this particular institution deals with inmates that have a problem following the rules.
To be honest it is not hard to find yourself in violation of one of the rules. I am not sure if they post the rules on the web but you can look at www.DOCS.STATE.NY.US
An inmate got into a 'fight' with another inmate and as a result he was transferred into our dorm. As a penalty for his transgression, he was initially on "Keep Lock." This penalty works great when you have inmates in their own individual cells. They are locked in and have their meals delivered to them. Since each cell comes complete with its own toilet, there is no need to let an inmate out of his cell.
We have cubes, and therein lies the problem. I am currently residing on the back row of cubes. This row has four single cubes and ten double cubes. The cubes are all the same size. The double cubes have bunk beds in them. My cube is in the middle of the row, with a double cube on one side and an aisle for an emergency exit on the other side. The miscreant in question arrived late one evening and took up residence in the lower bunk of the cube next to me.
He was fairly quick to diagnose my sinus problem as a highly contagious disease and out of respect for all the other inmates I should have myself quarantined. I tried to inform this fellow inmate that I was not infectious to others, that my problem was simply clogged sinuses, and that I was in fact under the doctors care. To this the inmate responded that he too had sinus problems and as such knew that what I had was not sinus problems. I decided there was no winning with this inmate and gave up trying to have any type of intelligent conversation.
The next step in the discipline process now has this inmate on loss of recreation privileges. This means he is allowed to go to meals in the chow hall, and to any assigned jobs and/or programs. The remainder of the time the inmate is required to remain in his cube.
The loss of recreation is not only for the big recreation yard, but also use of the two television rooms and cooking facilities which are in our unit. If you do not read, that leaves you with a lot of time on your hands with nothing to do. This inmate suggested, on more than one occasion, that out of respect (that word is so distorted in prison I need to do an entire post on it) I could take my newspaper and go out to the television rooms and read.
While there is a no noise policy in the dorm area, the television areas have no such policy and the noise level is usually at maximum. We are not allowed to take our radios out of the sleeping area. Instead of sitting comfortably in my cube listening to my radio and reading my NY Times I had to go sit out in all the noise because this other inmate got into trouble.
In an effort to not have the 'problem' escalate, I did in fact go out and watch the television for three plus hours both Tuesday and Thursday evening. On Wednesday I stayed in my cube to type a letter.
Even with my attempt to show some 'respect' by Thursday evening the inmate took it upon himself to start throwing water over the cube wall each time I coughed.
Under normal prison inmate rules, that is a gross violation of one's personal space and is usually met with force. Not responding to the water only leads to more water being tossed. This I know since I did not respond.
On Friday morning I mentioned to the regular officer (he had just returned from two days off) that when he did the cube moves that morning, would he please move the 'problem child' to another double cube. And it was done.
Now I can hear all those brain synapses crackling while you all say that sounds like the right thing to do. WRONG.
One of the most egregious things any inmate can do is go to a staff member about a problem with another inmate. In this case it seems to have worked out only because the inmate in question is a bully and as he was moving his stuff to the new cube, he sneered at me and said, "At least I am getting away from you!"
Well duh, why did he not simply ask to be moved in the first place? That would not have been a problem. The point is, if you are miserable, be sure you can rule over another inmate to prove you are a real man.
The bottom line is that putting inmates that are already suffering some lack of privileges in with other inmates is certainly not conducive to peace and harmony in the unit. While in the feds some inmates would be punished by loss of their commissary shopping, but they were not restricted in their movement about the compound.
If that was needed, they were sent to the special housing unit (SHU) and locked in their cells for the duration of their punishment. That makes more sense. But making sense is not something that happens much of the time in the prison setting.
It is now Sunday afternoon, I am listening to the radio and catching up on my letter writing, and no water is falling into my humble cube. I have no problem with the other 58 inmates in the dorm, and now that the problem child has been moved five cubes away from me, things are back to as tranquil as they were before he arrived to reek havoc.
Life goes on.