“We have to talk to the inmates,” the guard said. “But they’re in the middle of a test, can it wait until they’re done?” I asked. “No, we’re on lockdown, trying to locate four inmates-been missing for three hours.”
Hmm. Losing four inmates seemed a bit…sloppy, but it did explain all the running around and radios squawking that had been disrupting the morning. The security seemed a bit lax when I came in, too. My tote bag was run through an x-ray machine, but at the last prison I’d been in, it would have been dumped out and searched. When the test was over, I was left to find my way out and got lost, wandering down halls and into strange, uninhabited rooms. I finally asked an inmate I met in a hallway and he showed me how to exit.
Out of Control
In the parking lot, a guard asked me if I had a few minutes. I did. He asked what I thought about capital punishment and I told him I didn’t like it-innocent men could be executed while the real murderer went free. He rolled his eyes and told me they had inmates that were out of control, because they had multiple life sentences and nothing to lose. “Oh, they didn’t tell me this was maximum security,” I said. “We also have guys here who violated probation for some piddly thing and they’re getting hurt,” he said. He then showed me where an inmate had broken his nose.
I said, “That doesn’t sound good-why aren’t they separated?” “Would you be willing to pay more taxes to do that?” he asked, obviously frustrated. “I believe I would,” I answered, “but I think the whole system needs to be overhauled don’t you?” Just then his radio squawked and he was called away.
This morning, the entire front page of the local paper was an expose’ of conditions at the prison. Apparently the “smaller government” folks have decided to take away the resources of the prisons while simultaneously demanding that more people get locked up. No money is allocated for rehabilitation, or separating mentally challenged or mentally ill inmates from the guys with “nothing to lose.” Local physicians were the first to complain, since they were treating terrible eye injuries I won’t describe, except to say that “an eye for an eye” was being taken literally.
Media in a Democracy
Guards tried to contact the Department of Corrections to get help, but apparently whoever used to answer the phone there has been downsized. So the guards and physicians contacted the newspaper. As lousy as much of our media has become, the local reporter printed the story-just like in the good old days, when news media exposed corruption. If you are too young to remember those days, I should explain that reporters used to think it was their moral duty to expose corruption-it was their function in a democracy, you see.
Prison War Zone
I now realize that wandering lost through a prison with four guys missing exposed me to being taken hostage. When I was a volunteer at a prison in another state, I was told that if I was ever taken hostage, there would be no negotiation. A SWAT team was enroute and would enter firing-try to stay alive when it happened. That was the first time I considered maybe NOT volunteering, but I overcame that and found going to the prison to be very rewarding.
I had even thought about volunteering at this new prison, but now I think I won’t.