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Old 11-18-2018, 06:58 PM
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Hello everyone,

I am currently a CO working in a prison in the United States. Does anyone have any questions that they would want answered from "my" point of view? About life inside the walls, games inmates play, why COs do certain things etc.
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Old 11-18-2018, 07:39 PM
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I'm curious about the tone of corrections as it applies to staff and training and how it has changed (or hasn't) from when you first started.

I have been 'exposed' to this world for about six years now and I've been incredibly blessed by 99% positive interactions with staff. I would even go so far as to say a handful have been rather paternal with my husband in helping him to mature, engaging in fatherly advice about marriage and being goal oriented. But those officers tend to be "of a certain age" and so I'm not sure if that's the bigger factor or if the recruitment of new officers focuses less on seeing the inmate succeed and more on security and how to navigate a punitive system.

I guess much like education, a public school teacher 20 years ago had a very different objective by training than a newly graduated teacher who has been honed to state testing and administrative red-tape. Has there been a similiar shift in corrections?
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Old 11-18-2018, 10:15 PM
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I'm curious about the tone of corrections as it applies to staff and training and how it has changed (or hasn't) from when you first started.

I have been 'exposed' to this world for about six years now and I've been incredibly blessed by 99% positive interactions with staff. I would even go so far as to say a handful have been rather paternal with my husband in helping him to mature, engaging in fatherly advice about marriage and being goal oriented. But those officers tend to be "of a certain age" and so I'm not sure if that's the bigger factor or if the recruitment of new officers focuses less on seeing the inmate succeed and more on security and how to navigate a punitive system.

I guess much like education, a public school teacher 20 years ago had a very different objective by training than a newly graduated teacher who has been honed to state testing and administrative red-tape. Has there been a similiar shift in corrections?
The training given to your standard in the trenches CO has generally stayed the same. Like any other "Para-military" organization like police or military of course the curriculum changes with the times but the overall mission stays the same. Training I believe is geared more today to better understand inmate mindset.

BUT, first duty of course is "safety and security". That is dealing with those that make the choice to disrupt the orderly running of the prison.

I think it generally what you are talking about is the general "enthusiasm" of younger staff to be more pro-active in enforcing any and all rules all the time. They are learning balance in how to be a CO. Many of those individuals tend to get frustrated with the system and move on to other jobs in law enforcement like being a beat cop.

For those that stay, like myself we tend to find a general work/balance with the inmates that we deal with day to day. I enforce the rules, but I am also willing to just listen to someone who comes into my office who just wants to vent about the system. While a younger officer would tell them to just get out.
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Old 11-19-2018, 06:29 AM
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I think it generally what you are talking about is the general "enthusiasm" of younger staff to be more pro-active in enforcing any and all rules all the time. They are learning balance in how to be a CO.
Thank you for this answer. It explains the reactions of many CO's when my father was dying in the Pen from lung cancer. One CO refused to let me read my father his mail (even though it had passed through the mail room already) and was ... overly enthusiastic... in how he treated other inmates in the infirmary. While at the same time, I had CO's coming out of the woodwork, many of whom I'd never seen nor met, offering me condolences and saying how much they liked my father. It was a rather surreal experience. The ones who were the most... enthusiastic... were all young and just starting out.

I do know that like any other organization where people are given power over others, there is a certain type of person who is drawn to the job. They are generally not the type of people well suited to the job. Here in Oregon, they often end up finding themselves moved to "less stressful" jobs, but not all of them.

I try to remind people that CO's have a job to do, and that most of them simply want to do their jobs and go home in the same condition that they arrived at work in. I have had very few run-ins with truly awful CO's, but the ones I did experience that with definitely colored my opinion and made me leery of other CO's in much the same way as the bad police officers make all police officers seen as a threat by some people.

For those of you who do your jobs well, treat people as humans, and try to keep everyone safe, I thank you. My father would not have had the opportunity to die of lung cancer if it weren't for CP's like that. For the rest? Well, karma will take care of them eventually.
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Old 11-19-2018, 08:37 AM
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I know that CO's get asked many questions by visitors, and many are likely the same ones.
But would it be hard to not be a jerk about it? Its the first time the visitor asked it, even tho Im sure it was asked many times before by different people.


Not all the contact I had with a CO was bad but the ones that were......well you know. Its easier to remember those guys.
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Old 11-19-2018, 02:20 PM
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Firstly thank you for being so open and for offering this opportunity to our members. I am British and so I have seen the difference between the British and American prison system.The British system is far more lenient both in terms of sentencing and in terms of conditions and facilities. 99.9 % of British prisoners will be released at some point, life does not mean natural life here. The emphasis inour prisons on rehabilitation and job skills ready for release.
However, there is still an a lot of violence in British prisons and it is hard to recruit prison officers (CO's) over here. It seen as a difficult and challenging job which does not pay well.

On one of my visits to the US I met a CO who was British he had moved to the US ten years ago and had not regretted it. He preferred the tough regime. I was wondering does a tougher regime make the difficult job of a CO harder or easier?
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Old 11-19-2018, 03:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bikerguy View Post
Hello everyone,

I am currently a CO working in a prison in the United States. Does anyone have any questions that they would want answered from "my" point of view? About life inside the walls, games inmates play, why COs do certain things etc.
What kind of games are being played by inmates and how can you tell their playing them
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Old 11-19-2018, 09:10 PM
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Unfortunately, there is so much contraband in the prisons, even at camps. I would like to know why the CO's just seem to have so much trouble finding it, when it is so obvious who is using it? Also, when bags of it are constantly being thrown over the fence, why are they just unable to catch anyone in the act?

I totally understand that many of these guys go in there with good intentions but ultimately just become complacent and don't bother dealing with it. But for the guys who truly do follow the rules, and don't want anything to do with any of that stuff, or don't want to be near inmates that constantly smoke cigarettes, or walk around high, the COs just don't seem to do anything. Then when it is something unbelievably stupid and non-consequential, it is suddenly a big deal.

One other comment, there is so much inconsistency between the different COs. They all seem to make up their own rules. My husband is at a camp and that is his biggest complaint. "Rules" that aren't even in the A&O book. They just threaten them with BS things because they can or don't like it. These guys are human too, no need to dehumanize them just because a CO thinks for the duration they're there that they're better than them.
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Old 11-21-2018, 05:10 PM
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I know that CO's get asked many questions by visitors, and many are likely the same ones.
But would it be hard to not be a jerk about it? Its the first time the visitor asked it, even tho Im sure it was asked many times before by different people.


Not all the contact I had with a CO was bad but the ones that were......well you know. Its easier to remember those guys.
I hate to say it, but some people are just assholes. Most CO's don't like working in the visiting room. Mainly because the public can be very rude and obnoxious too.

I try to be courteous to visitors when they come in. Sometimes a smile can defuse a situation. I have experience with the public from before becoming a CO, many don't unfortunately.
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Old 11-21-2018, 05:16 PM
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Firstly thank you for being so open and for offering this opportunity to our members. I am British and so I have seen the difference between the British and American prison system.The British system is far more lenient both in terms of sentencing and in terms of conditions and facilities. 99.9 % of British prisoners will be released at some point, life does not mean natural life here. The emphasis inour prisons on rehabilitation and job skills ready for release.
However, there is still an a lot of violence in British prisons and it is hard to recruit prison officers (CO's) over here. It seen as a difficult and challenging job which does not pay well.

On one of my visits to the US I met a CO who was British he had moved to the US ten years ago and had not regretted it. He preferred the tough regime. I was wondering does a tougher regime make the difficult job of a CO harder or easier?
Our release rate is roughly 95% also. It just seems like more people are doing life than not.

"I was wondering does a tougher regime make the difficult job of a CO harder or easier?"

This is an interesting question, I really can't compare our system to other countries such as England or Norway, other than what I see on TV and that of course is censored. (Just like you can't believe all prison's in the US are like what we see on the show "Lock-up") Personally I feel tougher is better, more structure in the rules especially in higher security prisons makes for a safer prison. With that being said I only spend 8 hours a day in prison, inmates get to spend 24/7/365 locked up. When possible, they should be allowed to live and breathe. Have recreation, TVs, Microwaves, Commissary and education etc.
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Old 11-21-2018, 05:52 PM
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What kind of games are being played by inmates and how can you tell their playing them
Inmates play many different types of games. Sometimes they are being nice to try and compromise staff to bring in contraband. Other times they just want to skip out on a work detail. Sometimes they might pull a distraction on one side of the yard to draw attention from what they are really doing.

There are whole books on the subject, this is one of the best ones out there.

games criminals play
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Old 11-21-2018, 05:59 PM
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Unfortunately, there is so much contraband in the prisons, even at camps. I would like to know why the CO's just seem to have so much trouble finding it, when it is so obvious who is using it? Also, when bags of it are constantly being thrown over the fence, why are they just unable to catch anyone in the act?

I totally understand that many of these guys go in there with good intentions but ultimately just become complacent and don't bother dealing with it. But for the guys who truly do follow the rules, and don't want anything to do with any of that stuff, or don't want to be near inmates that constantly smoke cigarettes, or walk around high, the COs just don't seem to do anything. Then when it is something unbelievably stupid and non-consequential, it is suddenly a big deal.

One other comment, there is so much inconsistency between the different COs. They all seem to make up their own rules. My husband is at a camp and that is his biggest complaint. "Rules" that aren't even in the A&O book. They just threaten them with BS things because they can or don't like it. These guys are human too, no need to dehumanize them just because a CO thinks for the duration they're there that they're better than them.
"I would like to know why the CO's just seem to have so much trouble finding it, when it is so obvious who is using it?"

It's not as easy as it sounds. We are always outnumbered in prison. There is one of us for 150 inmates. I am on shift and focus on work only 8 hours a day, while an inmate has 24/7 to come up with new ways to get over on me.

"Also, when bags of it are constantly being thrown over the fence, why are they just unable to catch anyone in the act?"

We can try our hardest, but there are so many of us compared to them. Plus we are limited by manpower and budget. Can a warden really justify planting 10-20 CO's around a fence on guard to try and catch contraband? There is always a manpower and budget shortage in corrections. We catch people in the act, but we also know a lot come in. Honestly it's a manpower thing, lack of. That's the short answer.

I understand your frustration when it comes to rules being enforced or not being enforced.
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Old 11-21-2018, 08:41 PM
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It's super cool of you to come on here and invite questions from forum members -- thanks! I've not yet had a bad interaction with a CO. Mainly I think that CO's have a pretty tough job and not enough community support or gratitude -- and certainly not enough pay.

What is the crummiest area/position to work in a prison for a CO? What is generally considered the most enjoyable?
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Old 11-21-2018, 09:45 PM
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It's super cool of you to come on here and invite questions from forum members -- thanks! I've not yet had a bad interaction with a CO. Mainly I think that CO's have a pretty tough job and not enough community support or gratitude -- and certainly not enough pay.

What is the crummiest area/position to work in a prison for a CO? What is generally considered the most enjoyable?
Crummiest? Dry Cell. When an inmate ingests what we believe to be some sort of contraband (usually drugs) we place them in what's called a "Dry Cell". During this time we wait and wait until the inmate is ready to have a bowel movement. When he does....well someone has to inspect it in search of a suspected balloon full of drugs.

Most enjoyable. Hmmm any sort of vehicle patrol or tower duty.
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Old 11-22-2018, 09:47 AM
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When it comes to types of crimes that inmates are in prison for, do people with similar types of crimes act alike?
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Old 11-22-2018, 06:02 PM
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When it comes to types of crimes that inmates are in prison for, do people with similar types of crimes act alike?
That is an interesting question. Honestly no, everyone is an individual, they are not their "Crime". Unfortunately many folks in prison continue to run with the same "crew" of like minded individuals, they feed off of each other and continue down that path that leads to a revolving door of incarceration.

But then there are many that defy the odds and try their hardest with their GED, reading self help books, College classes, crafts, giving their prison job 100%.

It's very easy to label people under a particular stereotype based on their crime, race, neighborhood but if you dig deeper people will surprise you, sometimes in good ways and yes sometimes in bad ways.
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Old 11-22-2018, 10:47 PM
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That is an interesting question. Honestly no, everyone is an individual, they are not their "Crime". Unfortunately many folks in prison continue to run with the same "crew" of like minded individuals, they feed off of each other and continue down that path that leads to a revolving door of incarceration.

But then there are many that defy the odds and try their hardest with their GED, reading self help books, College classes, crafts, giving their prison job 100%.

It's very easy to label people under a particular stereotype based on their crime, race, neighborhood but if you dig deeper people will surprise you, sometimes in good ways and yes sometimes in bad ways.
I thought this was an odd question as well. My husband was only in the camp for a few months before he figured out who was full of it and who wasn't. It didn't take long to see who was really remorseful and who would probably have no problem picking right up where they left off the second they got out. He told me today that just yesterday while he was in the activity center, or whatever they call it, two guys were sitting there talking about a ponzi scheme they could create when they get out. My husband just sat there shaking his head!

His place doesn't offer outside college classes, but one of the COs has been working hard on some program called restorative justice (I think that's what it's called) and taking some of the inmates out into the community to discuss their crimes and such as a way to hopefully discourage people from making bad choices. My husband didn't qualify because he had too short of a sentence, however, the CO now wants my husband to suddenly partake and work with him on a lot of the stuff and his ideas and engage with some of it before my husband leaves at the end of January, which he is happy to do. If you look at one of my recent threads, my husband has really enjoyed being a GED teacher and he himself has gotten a lot out of it, but is disappointed in what they offer the students as he feels there is a lack of incentive for them when they actually get it. He is working with the CO to establish program for him to come back 2x/year and talk about post prison planing and some other issues, and we are going to establish a small annual scholarship to be awarded to one GED student a year to help them start a legit business, of course it's not as simple as that as of course, but he has seen how hard some of these guys work and how some really want to do something with their lives but have no outside support to do so. It's his way to give back as a volunteer and financially if we're able to.

Note - between you and me, I think part of the reason he wants to go back is that there is supposed to be a phenomenal pie place a few miles out of town that my husband is dying to try and by coming back 2x/year he will get his fill of it!
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Old 11-23-2018, 08:02 AM
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Just wanted to thank you for participating in the forum instead of just trolling. The perspective of a CO is a much needed perspective. I did nearly 8 years in a federal low. Most of the CO’s handled themselves well and brought some humanity to the job, which is not easy given the environment. I especially appreciated the more senior CO’s who were able to strike a balance between being laid back (even humorous!), fair, but without being pushovers. There were of course a few CO’s who were complete jerks and dangerous to interact with in any way. I alway took it that they were actually the most insecure ones in the bunch, and below the surface, we’re the most fearful. I also respected the women CO’s, because it took some guts to step into that role in an all male prison setting. I guess the question I have is if in your experience the CO’s that are the most inhuman in their interactions with inmates are covering for their own fear and insecurity. Thanks again for participating!
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Old 11-23-2018, 08:10 AM
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Thank you for your reply.
I can imagine how difficult it is working the visit section.
I think part of the problem is/was.......especially for first time visitors...
its hard to find out info. Like what to wear. What not to wear. Unless you are actually AT the prison and see (the one I visited had a large info board on what colors not to wear) its not easy.

And if you dont know enough not to wear something thats not approved, and dont bring another change of clothing, you miss the visit.


And every question isnt someone trying to pull something over on anyone.


Anyway, thanks for this thread.
Nice to see one of the good ones, trying to make a difference.
Thanks for that.
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Old 11-23-2018, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by rockchalk1 View Post
I thought this was an odd question as well. My husband was only in the camp for a few months before he figured out who was full of it and who wasn't. It didn't take long to see who was really remorseful and who would probably have no problem picking right up where they left off the second they got out. He told me today that just yesterday while he was in the activity center, or whatever they call it, two guys were sitting there talking about a ponzi scheme they could create when they get out. My husband just sat there shaking his head!

His place doesn't offer outside college classes, but one of the COs has been working hard on some program called restorative justice (I think that's what it's called) and taking some of the inmates out into the community to discuss their crimes and such as a way to hopefully discourage people from making bad choices. My husband didn't qualify because he had too short of a sentence, however, the CO now wants my husband to suddenly partake and work with him on a lot of the stuff and his ideas and engage with some of it before my husband leaves at the end of January, which he is happy to do. If you look at one of my recent threads, my husband has really enjoyed being a GED teacher and he himself has gotten a lot out of it, but is disappointed in what they offer the students as he feels there is a lack of incentive for them when they actually get it. He is working with the CO to establish program for him to come back 2x/year and talk about post prison planing and some other issues, and we are going to establish a small annual scholarship to be awarded to one GED student a year to help them start a legit business, of course it's not as simple as that as of course, but he has seen how hard some of these guys work and how some really want to do something with their lives but have no outside support to do so. It's his way to give back as a volunteer and financially if we're able to.

Note - between you and me, I think part of the reason he wants to go back is that there is supposed to be a phenomenal pie place a few miles out of town that my husband is dying to try and by coming back 2x/year he will get his fill of it!
"He told me today that just yesterday while he was in the activity center, or whatever they call it, two guys were sitting there talking about a ponzi scheme they could create when they get out. My husband just sat there shaking his head!"
Sociologists call it the criminal thinking patterns. It's something the system is just figuring out. We can throw as many GED classes or trade classes or keep folks busy with prison jobs, some just continue to do bad. It's all they know, its hardwired into their brains, environment growing up is not the only reason, the criminal mindset comes from all walks of life.

The system inside is trying to address criminal thinking, but to really address it we have to throw more money at the problem and create more robust programs to address it. The problem when it comes to money is that many feel that the only money spent in prison should be "more guns, more guards, more walls"
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  #21  
Old 11-23-2018, 10:10 AM
Bikerguy Bikerguy is offline
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Originally Posted by Free At Last 5 View Post
I guess the question I have is if in your experience the COs that are the most inhuman in their interactions with inmates are covering for their own fear and insecurity. Thanks again for participating!
Personally I feel that those are the ones who take it personally. They see inmates as nothing more than the crime they committed. Sex offender, drug dealer, murderer. Some black COs take it personally because of the excuses they hear from black inmates. How life is unfair to blacks in this country and they had no choice but to deal drugs. What those inmates sometimes fail to realize is that that black CO grew up in the same hood (or similar hood) and did not use use that as an excuse to commit crimes.

Some COs just want to be cops. Its a different job, being a CO and being a Cop.

Others are just tired of the games inmates play on us every day and just keep all inmates at arms length. It's an everyday battle I am sure as you know.
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  #22  
Old 11-23-2018, 10:31 AM
Bikerguy Bikerguy is offline
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Originally Posted by sidewalker View Post
Thank you for your reply.
I can imagine how difficult it is working the visit section.
I think part of the problem is/was.......especially for first time visitors...
its hard to find out info. Like what to wear. What not to wear. Unless you are actually AT the prison and see (the one I visited had a large info board on what colors not to wear) its not easy.

And if you dont know enough not to wear something thats not approved, and dont bring another change of clothing, you miss the visit.

And every question isnt someone trying to pull something over on anyone.

Anyway, thanks for this thread.
Nice to see one of the good ones, trying to make a difference.
Thanks for that.
For every family that tries to visit an inmate there are a half dozen who are trying to get in with a skirt too short or a shirt to tight or too low. Half my time in the visiting room is spent trying to prevent the "heavy petting" that is going on. If I don't then the heavy petting turns into a whole bunch more. I'm like a Nun with a ruler in a catholic school 8th grade dance sometimes.

"But the CO let me come in dressed like this last week...."
"Yea no, nice try"

But we must remain consistent when it come to enforcing the dress code. If I show favorites in the entrance suddenly I'm racist because I let in the white family but not the black family even though both were in violation. (I'm white BTW)

In my prison, every inmate is handed a handbook and in that handbook it spells out what someone can or cannot wear. I know that is not the perfect answer because most of them throw it out in the first day.....but we provide them with the standards, they should pass it on to the family.

As for a change of clothing we do provide direction to the closest wal-mart, many do come back with fresh wal-mart clothes.

I know it's a frustrating experience, especially for those who are new to the system, but we have to be on our toes because a lot of drugs come through the visiting room. Oh and that inmate engaged in heavy petting with his visitor? Yea he is purposely drawing my attention because his buddy two rows away is putting a balloon full of drugs in his prison wallet. Is it always like that? No, but it happens.
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  #23  
Old 11-23-2018, 12:00 PM
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And I'm about to ramble, y'all know me.

I visited my husband yesterday for Thanksgiving. It's an "extra" visiting day for state inmates. The majority of regular visiting staff were not working and the fill-in staff were doing their best to keep up our usual routine. I try to make a point to thank every staff member I come in contact with on holidays because even though it's their job and they're getting holiday pay, there may be a family at home missing their loved one for their decision to work that day (especially the voluntolds).

Did dress code violations happen because it was fill-in staff? Of course. Did it take an extra 45 minutes to get in because it was fill-in staff? Yep. Did we get an unusual visit and room scan by the sgt. because we had fill-in staff? Sure did. But at the end of the day, this was a day they could have chosen to feel slighted on and instead, the mood was light and friendly and because commutation announcements had been released the day before and our facility received 10 of the 70(!) awarded, there were COs congratulating inmates, families and friends with happy tears all over the place. It was celebratory.

On my way home I stopped at the convenience store. I made a statement about needing caffeine for my drive home. She asked why I was headed home so early, did I at least get turkey first? I told her I'd been visiting my husband up the road. She followed with the usual jarred look and "Oh, I'm so sorry." I wasn't. Not at all. The people in that room are my friends and family at this point and I wouldn't have traded yesterday for anything.

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all the families who visit and make the environment the best it can be by following the rules and respecting boundaries, to the staff who treat us fairly and to our loved ones working hard to rehabilitate and find their way back home.



So my question to Biker: I know some people like working holidays. But institutional life is a bit different. Given the difficult/emotional time it can be for some inmates, how did/do you feel about working major holidays?
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  #24  
Old 11-23-2018, 01:11 PM
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Since we’ve just entered the holiday season, I want to follow up on miamac’s question.

My overwhelming impression of prison, as a visitor, is that it is a very cold, very bare, aesthetically ugly environment which lacks basic touches of humanity and civility, such as a decent paint job, holiday decorations, laughter, warmth, etc. To be honest, the facilities I’ve seen have made me think of concentration or internment camps. One’s physical environment has considerable impact on one’s state of mind -- I imagine that is true not only for the inmates, but also for the CO’s. Since prisons often house long-term and life-sentenced inmates, I’ve been struck by the tragedy of keeping them in surroundings that are akin to the dog kennel at the local animal shelter. The COs’ jobs are already hard, and the ‘dog-kennel’ bare, drab walls, floors and lighting can’t help.

It occurs to me that if we want to steer inmates away from a criminal mindset and criminal ways of thinking about living life, it would go a long way towards that goal to make prison an actual community instead of a very large holding tank. I realize that this does differ greatly from prison to prison and state to state, so I’m not making a blanket statement that ALL prisons lack a semblance of community. I know that some feature their own papers, radio stations, community gardens, and such. Perhaps some even allow a Christmas tree at Christmas. My husband is a federal prisoner, however, and I have never seen anything like this implemented in the BOP. Federal prisoners seem to just be crammed into well-oiled penal colonies with cinder block walls and professional locks.

I wonder what you think of making prison into more of a ‘community’ and less a penal colony, especially for the inmates who must spend the majority, if not all of their lives inside.
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Old 11-23-2018, 05:34 PM
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Originally Posted by miamac View Post
So my question to Biker: I know some people like working holidays. But institutional life is a bit different. Given the difficult/emotional time it can be for some inmates, how did/do you feel about working major holidays?
I have a family so of course I do not like working holidays. But it is the career I choose. My family understands and we work around it.

As for it being a difficult time for inmates I totally get it. When I work major family holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving I'll cut my unit some slack. If I see something going on of course I address it. But I don't go hunting for infractions. In return the unit bosses make sure it runs smoothly and there are no problems on the shift.

Guys are going through issues and the last thing they want is some CO getting all into their shit over something petty.

As for visiting, I've worked visiting on a holiday and it's a mess. Long lines, shorter visits crying babies etc.

I always try and tell newer inmates to not have their family visit on major holidays, especially if they are from out of town. It's better for all to be in the visiting room on a slow day. Quicker lines, longer visits etc.
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