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Hello to all I the A.I. Universe.
I was given an article recently by Katie Rose Quandt and Alexi Jones titled Research Roundup: Incarceration can cause lasting damage to mental health. The article went in depth about the effects of our current system of penology on the mental health of those affected with mental health issues prior to being incarcerated. But what was most fascinating for me was the evidence that those who previously had no mental health issues were being subjected to such cruel conditions that even those leaving prison are experiencing lasting detrimental affects to their mental health. The affectation is known as “Post Incarceration Syndrome.”
The article took into consideration what I have found to be the most prevalent factor surrounding the mental deterioration in the carceral environment… STAFF. I will always remain fair in my assessments and never place all staff in the same category, but like the inmates, the staff that make the incarcerative experience a pure living hell, as opposed to a corrective endeavor, without a doubt have the most influence, and hence, the biggest impact on the mental health of prisoners.
A recent experience may explain. I am currently housed at a prison in Lake County Florida, appropriately Lake Correctional Institution. At this prison there is no library, no law library, nor any vocational education programs. There is space for a limited number of prisoners to work on obtaining a G.E.D., and a recently-begun wellness education program. There are also some religious volunteers and someone from Toastmaster’s International that comes in once a week to facilitate a group known as the Gavel Club. I am a member of the Gavel Club and the Wellness class. Unfortunately, although the Wellness instructor is very adept at relating her subject matter, almost none of the material is applicable to prison life. We have wellness education in the morning, and a coinciding recreation period in the afternoon. On this particular afternoon after walking several laps around the rec yard I sat my arthritic self on an incline in the grass to rest my knees. The next thing I knew two newer officers, officers, arroyo and stewart, were standing over me ordering me to get up and get moving. I attempted to explain that I had just walked several laps around the rec yard and was resting because I suffer from arthritis. None of the precipitating factors made any difference to these two officers. I know this because they said so when they replied, “I don’t care, get up and get moving like I told you.” I then tried to explain that the Wellness instructor is aware of my situation but was again informed that that held no weight with these two power hungry officers, that they had given me an order. When I asked if they would treat their grandfather this way that was all the reason they needed to whip out the handcuffs and begin the walk of shame across the rec yard with their quota of radical senior citizens in tow on the road to confinement where I would begin days if not weeks…yes you guessed it, doing nothing but lying on my back. The worst part for me would not be the loss of what little stimuli we do have by being placed into confinement, it was being essentially arrested by these two officers simply because of the power play that was created by them in the first place. When we reached the captain for approval to “lock me up,” thankfully he was somewhat level-headed and had the presence of mind to inform the officers that “the thing that started the whole thing,” my laying in the grass during recreation, I was actually allowed to do. The captain left it up to the officers whether or not to place me in confinement and I have no idea why they declined but by that time the damage to my psyche had already been done. While removing the hand cuffs the other officer had to get in one last jab by making the statement, “and wipe that smirk off your face.”
Now mind you, I’m sixty years old being ordered around by two recent high school graduate misandrists because FDC has lowered the recruitment age to 18. What can possibly be accomplished by placing an 18 year old in a position of authority over a sixty year old? The only thing to be accomplished is having a body to fill the position. There is absolutely zero rehabilitation even if that were the goal. Which it is not. The end result was that I was ordered to leave the rec yard and return to the dormitory. So instead of hitting what they were shooting at, me to be physically active on the rec yard, I went to the dorm and proceeded to lay back on my bunk doing nothing. Not only was my physical well being completely disregarded by officers arroyo and stewart, but it was literally days before my mental functioning began to process the event without anger, depression, and the feeling of degradation. And to be quite honest I still have not gotten completely over it because I find myself doing everything possible to avoid these two officers even in passing. The real question is will I ever be able to deal with life on life’s own terms again whether inside or outside these fences?
It is not surprising the recidivism rate is as high as it is as mental illness appears to be the touchstone of the largest incarceral system the world has ever known.
By the way, did I mention Lake C.I. is a designated mental health facility. A lot of good that does.
Peace and love. Namaste.
Photo by Altin Ferreira on Unsplash
Is it possible to quantify the amount of, or in the case of amerika’s prison industrial complex, the lack of positivity? Even in the comparative state, measured against the vast amount of hypocrisy, the lack of positivity equates to nothing less than a vacuous state of existence for the millions of men and women held in this country’s prisons and jails.
One example is when we were having conflict with a sergeant at another prison who thought it fell under his job description to shave all the prisoner’s heads on their way back from chow. While discussing the issue with the colonel, I asked if his hair cut was in compliance with what he was saying to me about what the rule states. His answer was a resounding no that he was not in compliance with their own rules. The statement was made without malice. It was to be taken as a matter of fact and not to be challenged. There is no discussion about issues. If you attempt to resolve a problem you’ll likely be punished rather than encouraged.
Of course there is no room for debate when it comes to the ambiguous nature of the language of the rules but looking at the realities of everyday prison life you can’t help but understand why the prisons and jails are full and expanding.
There is a massive drug problem in amerika’s prisons. How can that be, one might ask. Well there may be some coming in through visitors. Some. It’s a given that the prisoners are not taking furloughs out to drugs ‘r’ us. That leaves the source to be pondered. But not very long I bet. In the visitation park there is a poster with six or eight photos of presumably former corrections officers and their criminal exploits which include introduction of contraband, sexual misconduct, etc. At this prison alone there have been murders of prisoners by officers, gang batteries by officers that were surreptitiously recorded and went viral on the internet, falsification of documents to cover up these actions, and myriad other felonious acts, many that go undetected everyday. But let’s have a look at those messages that are conveyed on a much smaller scale.
For instance, smoking has been taken from prisoners as a general rule. There have been fiscal reasons cited for this prohibition – health care costs associated with smoking and so forth. Also the butts lying around, and other trash associated with smoking. But the rules put in place for officers are somewhat more obscured. It began that officers were not allowed to smoke while on the compound. They had to wait until it was their break time and walk outside the gates to smoke. Then, some prisons designated smoking areas inside the fences but away from prisoners. Now it appears there are no restrictions at all and officers are smoking within arms reach of prisoners while they are talking to them. What kind of health care savings could there be in propagating smoking cessation classes for the thirty thousand or so employees of FDC? But that’s just scratching the surface of hypocrisy.
Prisoners are not permitted to carry any food out of the chow hall. But most meals we are given less than five minutes to eat. I cannot remember the last time I was able to finish a meal. Such as they are. But one thing I do know is there are no provisions giving officers free reign of the kitchen for inmates to cook for them. I don’t know that there are overt promises made but you can bet there is some type of quid pro quo. This is commonplace in every prison I’ve been housed at. There is no doubt that when officers trade with prisoners they are breaking rules and laws but when officers trade chow hall food to prisoners that they have brought from the kitchen for favors or other products, there are messages that prisoners get, that lead them to believe something is only wrong if you don’t get caught. Or worse yet, if someone with some sort of authority lets you get away with something its OK. Did I forget to mention that we are permitted to keep food in our lockers that was purchased from commissary? Senselessness. For instance, we are able to purchase peanut butter from the canteen but we have no way to get bread for a sandwich. In the privately owned and operated prisons you can purchase these items, but not in the state facilities. So you cannot take bread or any other food from the dining hall. If you get caught, technically you can receive a citation of sorts but mainly you are made to throw it away. Imagine, throwing away food just so a person can’t eat it. I’ve asked a couple of officers about this and they are always speechless.
I have to wonder, will we ever get to the point where we will want our citizens to become better human beings after we ‘correct’ them? Will we ever provide an environment where that’s possible? We had better get on it because it’s going to take a very long wide turn to make the changes we need.
Edvard Munch’s iconic painting ‘The Scream’
Hello AI Family,
Have you ever been refused access to use the toilet? I mean without being held in a hostage situation like a bank robbery or a kidnapping. A very rare event. But even victims of those circumstances report receiving these basic humanitarian necessities. But not the victims of the white shirts of the Florida department of corrections.
These ”white shirts” as they are known, are any rank higher than a sergeant. Lieutenant, captain, major, colonel. Objectively, taking into account that there are people in the white shirts, and, at least ostensibly, they have reached a level of reasoning commensurate with the decisions they are required to make in order to maintain an already extremely stressed population of men, some of these folks still haven’t acquired the skill set to rationally make decisions to correct behaviors that are considered incorrect.
A description is needed here. In all prisons there are count times. Generally, the stock in these human warehouses are inventoried around five times during the waking hours of a day. The last waking count is known as a master roster count. We are allotted a ten or so minute regrouping period to retreat to our bunks for the count. This really seems like a never ending process some days. A couple of nights ago there was apparently a staff shortage and the white shirt on duty was in the dorm for count. I’m not sure that this particular night was one that required an extra minute to settle but all of a sudden the white shirt was screaming her lungs out, threatening to ”lock-up” not any offenders of her directives, but the neighbors of said offenders. Now remember that a lot of these men are here because they are unable to follow rules in the first place. So under a storm of vitriolic invectives these men are supposed to police each other. The end result could have very easily been a violent confrontation between any number of men — especially after the white shirt declared that we couldn’t use the toilets. Some tyrannical prison guards inflict this particular brand of power-wielding on their wards — either as in this case punishment for some perceived breach of their authority, or as a standard ‘I can do whatever the hell I want.’ At any rate, it can’t be healthy to keep someone from using the toilet. I would even suggest it falls under cruel and unusual punishment. But what I find even more striking is the perceived need to scream and yell threats of even harsher punishment for simple infractions at men who are already dealing with an almost impossible living condition.
According to the officer’s code of conduct, Fla. Administrative Code CH.33-208, this primitive coercive form of communication is strictly prohibited. As with primarily every other section of this code there is zero accountability. The ”professionals” are not held to their own standards of conduct, and yet, the wards are held to a heightened standard of not only their own conduct, but apparently the next man’s conduct as well.
The questions remain the same, ”Do you want your neighborhoods, your families and your loved ones to be safer? Do you want your incarcerated family and loved ones to reenter society better equipped to be a productive member of your community?” Our current modality of incarceration and non-accountability of the incarcerator will never achieve correction.
Much peace and love
In a real world of problems and solutions it is generally practiced to recognize where a problem exists and to seek a resolution to the problem. Enter the incredibly inaptly named world of the Florida Department Of Corrections. The misnomer doesn’t only stem from the fact that there is absolutely zero correcting the behaviors of the wards of the state, but also it stems from the need to acknowledge the department’s inherently flawed inabilities to police itself and seek solutions to the problems that come from a need to cover up the behaviors of the very people charged with correcting the behaviors of the wards of the state.
Let me see if I can un-convolute this for you with a couple of situations.
The process for a prisoner to redress a problem is known as the ”grievance process.’ In Florida this is a three step process that must be completed before a person in prison can exercise his constitutional right to seek redress from the courts. Thanks be to the U.S. Supreme Court for consistently viewing prisoners as less than human. No matter, the grievance process simply doesn’t work anyway. Knowing this, I use this process only to bring attention to the problems that are rampant with the people who run this show. It is decidedly so that the system will spend a million dollars to save a dime.
This brings me back to the great sock caper. If you remember a couple of weeks ago I reported that the top ranking officer at dormitory inspection essentially helped himself to socks that I had in of all places… my laundry bag. For reasons unknown, the major emptied my laundry bag onto the middle of my bunk and made away with another mesh bag we use for canteen shopping that I had meant to throw away, and three brand new pairs of socks. I received a property form for the canteen bag but alas not the socks. The following is a verbatim copy of the grievance that followed and the response.
This informal grievance is in accord with F.A.C. CH 33-103.001(1)(2)(4), 33-103.002, 33-103.005, 33-103.010, 33-103.011, 33-103.014. On Feb 10 20211 during dorm inspection Major Crawford emptied my laundry bag onto my bunk. For whatever reason the major confiscated a trashed canteen bag and three brand new pairs of quarterly order socks with gray toe and heel. If these socks were taken because there were other socks, those were all the state socks with holes that I could not get replaced from laundry. Hence my family had to purchase those socks. The major could have taken the state socks. Later that evening Sgt Cooper brought to me a property slip for only the canteen bag. He knew nothing about the socks. It will be evident on camera that Major Crawford left with the socks and most of the dorm witnessed him with the socks. The remedy sought is to return the 3 pairs of brand new quarterly order socks or apply to risk management for a refund of the amount of purchase as per F.A.C. ch. 33-602.201(14)(a thru e).
(Response from someone named Washington): Informal is vague and cannot be clearly investigated. You’ve failed to provide the time of this incident therefore video cannot be reviewed.
This is a tactic frequently employed by the department of corruption in order to avoid owning up to the completely flawed system that allows for the lack of professionalism and the recycling of criminal behaviors that fuels recidivism and mass incarceration. Never mind that dorm inspection is every Wednesday at approximately the same time. Defend and deflect.
Again, do you want your cities to be safer? Do you want your incarcerated loved ones to become productive members of society? We have to have professionals who act professionally. We have to make punishment subordinate to rehabilitation. And we must acknowledge the inherent and problematic methodology of penology that is more akin to Abu Grab than the treatment of our own citizens.
The only real effect the flagrant lies spewed onto the grievance response served was to piss me off. My only recourse is to continue the grievance process with an appeal to the creators of the mess in Tallahassee at the head office, which will invariably be denied thru either the same or some other contrived nonsensical reasoning, then go on to file a small claims court suit in which FDC will spend copious amounts of money to not admit that the offending employee was in fact wrong, also requiring them to replace six dollars worth of socks. Obviously a route 99.99% of inmates are not willing to travel. So with the blessing of the dysfunctionality of a system designed to not only allow, but to perpetuate itself thru the permissible subterfuge of supposedly keeping the public safe, men and women are abused, sometimes to death, women are impregnated, and even juveniles suffer atrocities at the hands of so-called professionals and all are left with a method of redress known as ” the grievance process” that is not just simply ignored, but actively thwarted by it’s inherent design. If all you show a man is corrupt methods of existence, in order to sustain the same system that calls itself the department of corrections, that’s all a man will learn. Dysfunctional corruption. Teach a man to fish.
This picture I’m painting is as representative as I believe anyone could paint no matter how outlandish it may appear. There is absolutely nothing rehabilitative about the penology employed by the Florida department of corrections. As I suspect is true in other departments throughout the U.S. as well rendering the rate of return to prison commensurate with the need for jobs to stir the economy in a state that depends on being pretty to sustain the lavish lifestyle of the few.
We’ve yet to discuss the nonexistent medical care in the Fla. department of corruptions, a subject that will I think require an installment all its own.
On a final note, I’m no longer at Columbia correctional, I’ve been transferred to Lake correctional, an institution purportedly scheduled to be torn down. Your guess is as good as mine. The topic shall be commented on in future postings.
Until then, much peace and love. Namaste.
I don’t mind admitting that this is pure commentary and that I’ve done no actual research in the composition of this article save my own experience. The primary question I would like to pose is this,” Why doesn’t the establishment want our society to heal?”
Given where I’m posting I hope it stands to reason that I’m speaking of the Amerikan injustice system. There is much rhetoric about prison reform in some of the media these days but it’s this one question that’s lacking in every radio or print story I’ve come across in recent years. TV won’t address the issue, period. The reason I pose this question because if we wanted to change something, say for instance pulling our troops out of a war torn area because it no longer serves our ‘interests,’ we just do it. Prime example since it’s happening right now and was only recently decided by our last president who was only in office four years. The exploding prison population has been happening for decades.
So why do we keep putting legislators in office that not only allow, but propagate bad laws that do things like weaponize sex. Oh no, now I’ve done it. I’ve spoken like a real pinko Commie fag who wants to nuke the gay whales. Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s first appointment to the ”Supreme Court” was quoted in the case of Gamble v Alabama as recognizing that with over 4500 federal laws on the books, it’s virtually impossible for a person over the age of 18 in Amerika to not commit a crime for which he or she can be imprisoned. That’s astounding! But yet we keep electing these same self-important people cycle after cycle for 25 or 30 years. And are we any safer? We certainly are at an increased risk of the caprice of the politicians, the police, the prosecutors, the judges, and what’s probably the most powerful administrative agencies in every single state, The Department Of Corrections. Or what’s known affectionately as the dept. of corruptions, among incarcerated persons everywhere.
It’s obvious that what we have been doing doesn’t work and never has or we wouldn’t be in this predicament in the first place. Why don’t we make the changes needed within the penal system to stop the madness? Why don’t we want America to heal? We view ourselves as this all time greatest society known to mankind, but maintain the largest prison population in history. Ever! There are many models from which we can draw, Germany, Norway, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Is it arrogance? Is it fear? I don’t think either. Honestly, I think that while the taxpayers coffers are draining like sieves, the private sectors are raking it in. Is that enough incentive to keep the prisons filled with the poor instead of educating our citizenry? Is it incentive enough to fill the prisons with uneducated, unqualified, and underpaid employees who have no idea what they have been drawn into and are incapable of exhibiting even the slightest bit of humanity? That which imprisoned people need most. I don’t know. Who’s doing the math. Those who know the answer to the question, ”Why doesn’t the establishment want our society to heal?”