The little things

Most of these inmates are pretty good at what they do.  They are all here for different reasons but for the most part, they are here because they are good manipulators.  After all, that is how you survive in prison.  Being in prison doesn't exactly encourage honesty.

It's easy to allow yourself to be manipulated by these guys.  I see it all the time.  Even well seasoned officers fall into that trap.  To really be good at your job, you need to be able to spot manipulation.  None of us are perfect at it, but you must always be on the lookout.

A couple of months ago, I was working in a unit with an inmate that I had a feeling was manipulating staff quite well.  He is Mexican and always had someone with him to interpret for him.  We were told he didn't speak a lick of English.  This particular inmate had been in prison for years and yet had not learned to speak any English.  To me, that seems a great way to become fluent in any language.  Surround yourself with it all the time and you naturally absorb it.  Something just didn't seem right about it.  When we spoke, his eyes said to me that he did in fact at least understand English.  I seemed to be the only one that thought he was taking us on a ride but something just didn't sit right with me and he knew it.  I told him I knew he understood just fine.

Fast forward a few months and I begin working in a new unit.  A unit that he had at some point been moved to.  Funny thing, he spoke to me in perfect English from that very first time I saw him on. When I say perfect English, I mean it.  No accent, advanced words, and better grammar than most English speakers I know.  I would not be surprised to find out that English was actually his first language.

I think he gives me respect because he knows I didn't fall for his trick.  He knows I enjoy my job and am at least decent at it.  I have learned to pay attention to all the little things and not become complaisant.  You can't in this job because that is when the little things go unnoticed and later turn to big things.  Pay attention to all around you and trust your gut!  No matter what any one tells you, if something feels off, it probably is.  For me, this wasn't a big deal but for many officers, something like this could save your life.  A split second could make all the difference.  Don't allow that difference to be a bad thing.

Anything for commissary

In prison, the inmates are not allowed money.  They do have some on their "books" (online account) so they can buy things like stamps and food but they aren't allowed to carry any on them.  Because of that, commissary (where they buy their food) becomes their main method of payment.    They use commissary to pay for just about anything.  It is against the rules, but these guys aren't here for following rules in the first place.

We had one inmate that had paid another for some, ahem, lovins.  I am sure you know where this is going.  Anyway, the inmate that received the payment was worried that because he is straight and not attracted to men in any way that he would not be able to get it up.  He solution however, was rather um, well mind boggling.

In order to be able to get it up and keep it up, he decided to stick a pencil up his urethra.  That's right, he took getting a wood a little too seriously.  He shoved the whole darn pencil inside of himself!!!  He thought he would be able to keep it up better and he really wanted that commissary.

Then, when he couldn't get it back out, he tried using another pencil to get it out!  Needless to say, that only made matters worse.  He ended up having to be transported to the hospital for emergency surgery.

Can you imagine?  The very thought makes me tremble and shutter.  Ugh.  Seriously?  That is usually a man's pride and joy.  Like pathetically so.  What in the world makes you think that is possibly a good idea?  As if looking at any of the porn laying all over the prison of women wouldn't be a much better idea.  I can think of a million other ways that are so much better.  How in the...  I just don't even know.  I do not get these guys.  Cream of the crop right here.

And, here's your sign.

Radio traffic

We had an inmate PC up yesterday.  What that means is that he was threatened and could no longer live on the tier.  The first officer (we will call him officer A) to talk with the inmate was not able to get any names from him.  I began speaking with him and was able to get a name out of him.  I had an idea of who it was any way and it turned out to be true.

So, officer A began the paperwork to have this inmate moved while I began our much needed tier checks.  None of us had ear pieces in at the time as it was after dayrooms were closed so we don't tend to wear them at that point.

Just as I was on the tier belonging to this particular inmate and just so happened to be walking past the cell belonging to the inmate that threatened him, officer A got on the radio and announced that the inmate was PCing up and which name he had named.  Think about that for a minute.  One simple sentence just put the life of this inmate in danger.  The inmate he ratted on is a heavy in a gang.  He will spread the word and this inmate will not be safe anywhere.  Officer A is a veteran officer.  He has been working in this prison for nearly a decade.  He knows better.

I simply got onto the radio and advised him of where I was.  He knew immediately what he had done.  Only time will tell what will become of it.  Hopefully he was not heard, but I highly doubt it.  These guys have nothing better to do than watch us and listen, especially when they know something is going on.

You work in a prison!

I have been seeing a trend lately that really worries me.  This trend seems to come from naive people,  mostly new C/Os as well as many case managers.  So what is the trend?  Trust.  Too much trust.

We work in a prison.  The guys aren't here for being upstanding citizens.  Some made some minor mistakes but most have made a life out of crime.  Many are deadly and usually the most deadly are the ones that come across as innocent because they are so great at manipulation.  They manipulate you to get information and even contraband at times.  They seem so sweet but underneath they are rotten to the very core.  It's tough to tell which ones are rotten at times.  You MUST keep your guard up at all times.

What makes this worse is not only are you endangering yourself, but others.  I have seen many C/Os and case managers release personal information to inmates about other C/Os that could easily get them killed, or even their families.  Why?  Why in the world do you find a need to release personal information about other people to dangerous inmates?  Are you trying to be friends with them?  If so, you are working in the wrong place.

You chose to work in a prison.  That means you are choosing a dangerous life, but no need to make it more dangerous for those you work with.  Don't release information you don't need to.  DO NOT put the lives of your co-workers on the line because you are lonely and want to feel liked by these guys.  If you are that desperate, you need to find a new career before you get someone killed.


Our inmates seem dead set that we are all prejudice against what ever they are.  So much so, that they make themselves look like idiots.  Yesterday, we had one inmate tell our officer that he is homophobic and was picking on him simply because that particular inmate is gay.  The funny thing is, so is the officer.  The inmate didn't know that of course, but that officer has been in a relationship with a man for over 20 years!

Another time, one of our LTs was walking the tiers and was accused of being racists against Mexicans.  The funny thing is he IS a Mexican.  He looks it AND has a very common Mexican last name.  Some of these guys are just so used to using prejudice as an excuse that they have no idea how stupid they look.  Not everyone is prejudice.  In fact, most of us aren't and couldn't care less what race or sexual orientation you are.  Get over yourself!

Sporadic crazy

Calvin peeing on Hobbs.

One area of the prison I work in has this one particular inmate that seems totally normal most of the time.  The problem is, when he is crazy, he is really crazy and you never know when his crazy will show up.  He is known for being a drug abuser so all we can figure is that either the drugs caused this, or this caused the drug use.  Either way, it can be interesting.

One day you will be interacting fine with him and the next, his crazy comes out.  You will come in to work and he will be having an issue with someone and call you over.  That's when you realize things are not normal for him.  He will tell you all about how all the other inmates are urinating on him and he needs you to get them to stop.  Next thing you know, he is convinced that you are urinating on him as well and he looses it.  The poor guy is completely convinced that the whole world is peeing on him!  Imagine that... well, maybe don't imagine that as that would be a little too graphic but you know what I mean.

Because this is all in his head, nothing you or anybody else says will convince him that you aren't peeing on him.  So he ends up being sent to seg until he returns to normal then he forgets it ever happened and moves on.  The inmates on the other hand, they have a tougher time forgetting it.


The graveyard shift at our institution is called first shift.  First shift starts just as the inmates are sent to bed and ends just as they are getting ready for breakfast.  There just isn't much to do on first shift.  They may search the day rooms and do random UAs but unless something out of the ordinary kicks off, there isn't much to do.

People can get pretty desperate when bored and COs are no exception.  One particular night, someone brought in Carolina Reapers.  If you haven't heard about Carolina Reapers, you are in for a treat.  They are hotter than hot peppers considered the hottest in the world.  They were created specifically for their heat.  Here is a video of people trying it:

Anyway, so an officer decided to bring some in and see how many other officers he could get to try them.  He not only had all the staff in his unit, but also started gathering them from other areas of the prison including those meant to respond to emergencies.  Problem.  The officers willing to try the pepper had the expected result.  Many were throwing up for hours and some were in such bad pain that they stayed huddled in a ball for hours.  Luckily, no emergency happened.  Can you imagine what would have happened if a fight broke off or there was a medical emergency?  They break off at a moments notice and we could have had the majority of our staff out of commission.  To make matters worse, this particular unit is our max unit where the majority of emergencies come from.

I understand the boredom and all but you really got to think these things through.  Don't risk you job or the lives of others for entertainment.  You have a job to do.  If you can't handle the boredom without doing something stupid, find a new job.