Thursday, January 19, 2006

One More Blast From The Past

George S. came to my institution by way of an interstate compact agreement. An interstate compact agreement is where states "trade" a few of their worst prisoners to another state to lessen the tension and trouble at their institutions. George S. was transferred from one of the panhandle states to us because he had killed a couple of inmates while incarcerated at their max. institutions. George S. was a stone cold killer. I spent a couple of hours last night trying to find some background information on him. His crimes were pre-internet, so the only thing I found was a copy of the appeals court ruling on his initial charge. His sentence was Life for the killing of a young woman with a sawed-off shotgun. From the sketchy information I could gather, he killed her because she was a witness to some of his other criminal activities. His own words were "I was not going to do a hundred years for anybody." He was right.

By the time we got him, George S. had four murders to his credit. It only took a few months before he added number five. It was 1993 and I was new to dayshift. I had spent my first fifteen months as a correctional officer on midnights. I wasn't a "fish", as new officers are called, but I wasn't very experienced either. That morning I was walking the yard with Cisco. Cisco is Puerto Rican, ex-special forces and probably the best officer to ever patrol the yard at our institution in its 120 year history. Cisco has saved more than one officer's life in his twenty something years at our institution. A call came over the radio from "D" wallstand to check out the weight pile. The weight pile was a roofed area on the back of the yard where inmates worked out with free weights. It was one of the most dangerous places on the yard. The roof blocked the wallstand's ability to observe and all the nickels and dimes, which are what the five and ten pound weights are called, not to mention the weight bars were all potential weapons. When Cisco and I came into view of the weight pile, their was a mass exodus of inmates leaving the area; a sure sign that something bad was or had happened and these inmates wanted no part in it. We, along with some other responding officers stopped everyone from leaving. Cisco went to the weight pile and quickly called for M-1, the nurse on duty, to respond to the area.

Cisco tried to warn me but I had to see for myself. Lying next to the bench press on the ground was an inmate called "Silver", or at least his mortal remains. He was brutally beaten with a weight bar. His head was recognizable only as a gray haired pile of red Jello. I had to swallow down some dry heaves.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. George S. was charged with Silver's murder and placed in ACU. ACU is the jail within a jail within a jail. The segregation unit is the jail within a jail and ACU is a walk within the segregation unit. I met George S. the one and only time when I worked ACU one day. George S. was making his weekly ten minute phone call as mandated by the courts. I looked at my watch and told him, "Time's up." He heard me but didn't acknowledge me. After another minute or so I said again, "Time's up." Much to my relief he hung up the phone. Then he walked over to the bars that separated us. His eyes were something out of a nightmare. I'm at a loss to describe them, but I'll try. They were distinctive like Elijah Wood's eyes, except they were a much paler blue and they radiated an evil that was so intense it was palpable. I've only seen eyes similar to his on two other people and they are both on death row and were contract killers. It was then that George S. said one of the most memorable lines I've ever heard. He looked at me with those eyes and said, "You fuck with me again and I'll rip off your face and use it for a jack rag." Much to my relief again, he turned and walked to his cell and we put him in it.

Fast Forward a few months. George S. was being transferred to another penitentiary. This one was on the continent but not in the 48 contiguous states (kind of narrows it down doesn't it?) He was scheduled for a one day and one night stop at his original panhandle state penitentiary to expedite some paperwork, then on to his new home. He was placed in panhandle state's most secure walk in their most secure cell house. I'm not familiar with their procedures but I assume they are similar to ours, so the following is educated conjecture. George S. was cuffed and shackled and escorted to the shower. He was placed in the shower, the door secured and his restraints removed. The most dangerous prisoner at Panhandle State Pen. was a man named Matt A. He was so dangerous that they had built a cage around his cell. This was where he was allowed his mandated recreation time; away from all other prisoners. The officer that escorted George S. was walking past Matt A.'s cell. Apparently, Matt A. was in the caged area and not his cell. Somehow Matt A. got a hold of the officer as he walked by. Matt A. told the officer to give him his keys or he would kill him. The officer turned over his keys and Matt A. locked the officer in his cell. Matt A. walked to the shower while brandishing two homemade knives, called "shanks." Matt let himself into the shower and screams, shouts and a struggle were heard. After a surprisingly short amount of time, Matt A. walked out of the shower covered in blood. He walked back to his cell, layed his weapons on the ground, let the officer out, handed the officer back his keys and allowed the officer to secure him in his cell. George S. was found dead in the shower with 46 stab wounds. The investigation never turned up how Matt A. knew George S. was going to be there on that particular day. Normally, transfers are very confidential. Matt A. still lives in the same cell serving out 12 life sentences.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Worst Jobs #1- What did you do at work today Daddy?

[When I first posted this one, some were incredulous that it actually happened. I assure you, it really happened. Only the names have been changed to protect me.]

Some of you may not consider this worse than the other job I mentioned, but I was glad I didn’t have Nurse Boone’s job. Thankfully, I was only involved as an observer. Mr. Boone quit shortly after the incident.
It all started with a phone call….."Hospital. Nurse Boone speaking."

"Boone, this is Lt. Galloway from the seg unit. We need you over here. We have a situation that requires your attention."

"What kind of a situation? A fight? A cutter? I need to know what to bring with me."

"Oh, it’s nothing like that. This is kind of...well...unique. The only thing I can think of that you might bring with you is some Vaseline."

Boone thought he heard a chuckle on the other end of the phone. "OK. I’ll be right over." Boone arrived at the seg unit and was ushered to 2 walk, cell 15. Galloway, the shift captain, and a couple of officers were standing outside the cell door. Two other officers were in the cell kneeling down and looking under the bed. Boone approached Galloway and said, "I’m here. What’s the problem?"

"The inmate is stuck."

"Stuck? Stuck how?"

"Take a look for yourself."

One of the officers came out of the 7’ X 10’ cell so Boone could enter. The mattress was thrown on the floor and the inmate was lying face down and naked on the steel bunk. The bed frames in the segregation unit are 1/16" plate steel with an angle iron frame. The frame is welded and bolted to the wall. The steel plate has a series of holes drilled in it slightly smaller than the diameter of a coke can, presumably to make the frame lighter. As Boone entered, the inmate turned his head to the nurse and said, "It must have fell in the hole while I was asleep. When I woke up, I was stuck." Boone knelt down and peered under the bed. Sure enough, the inmate had "it" sticking through one of the holes in the bed.

"Sure," Boone said. "It just ‘fell’ in that hole. I guess you always sleep naked on the bare bunk." Boone looked a little closer. The inmate really was stuck. The edges of the hole were biting into his skin and the circulation to "it" was obviously cut off. Boone walked out of the cell shaking his head. (I’m sure this inmate was not the first to try this, but he was the first "gifted" enough to get stuck.) Boone turned to Galloway and said, "You’re right. That’s a new one on me. Any suggestions?"

"You could take the Vaseline I told you to bring and relieve the pressure for him. He can’t reach to take care of it himself." Everybody thought this was uproariously funny, except Boone of course.

Boone ignored him. "How about some ice water? We could put "it" in some ice water. That ought to shrink it."

"You got a mouse in your pocket? There is no "we." Try whatever you want. This is a medical problem now." Boone had an officer bring him some ice water in a bowl. Boone went back in the cell and held the bowl under the bed and placed it over "it." The inmate howled. Oblivious to the inmate’s protests the Nurse held the bowl there for a few minutes. It should have worked, but it didn’t. Still the same. Still stuck.

Boone went to call the institutional doctor and explain the situation. Boone came back and explained that the doctor wanted the inmate, bed and all, to be taken to the inside hospital. Exasperated, Galloway said, "How are we going to do that?"

Boone laughed. "Now who’s got the mouse in their pocket? I’m done with him until you get him down to the hospital." They ended up calling someone from the maintenance department to cut the bed off of the wall with a cutting torch, while 4 officers held the bed and inmate from falling to the ground. They then placed the inmate on his back with the bed frame on top of him onto a four-wheeled cart that was used to deliver food to the seg unit. They then had to push this cart across the whole compound. It looked like some kind of obscene sundial pointing at the sky. Somebody finally threw a towel over "it."

They made it to the hospital amid wide eyes and copious amounts of laughter. They carried the bed/inmate into the hospital and the doctor arrived some time later. I wish I had a good ending to the story. I don’t know what the doctor ended up doing, but the inmate finally became unstuck. The rumor always was that somebody had to relieve the pressure like Lt. Galloway initially said. I doubt it. But that was the story and Nurse Boone never did live it down. Staff and inmates alike teased him mercilessly. I guess that is why he quit. But what a story he has to tell.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Open the Floodgates

One of the favorite past-times of disgruntled segregation inmates is flooding the walk. They stuff whatever is handy: books, newspapers, clothing, sheets, pillows, mattresses, spare body parts, into the toilets and flush, flush, flush! Voila! We now have instant waterfalls adorning the otherwise drab cell house. This is loads of fun and hours of pleasure for all staff involved, I assure you. When the segregation cell house was being remodeled, the whole seg unit was moved to “F” block. “F” block was the newest cell house at the time. Unlike the old seg unit, “F” block came equipped with a fire suppressing sprinkler system. Each cell had its own sprinkler head mounted above the cell door, about ten feet up. Ralph “Lucky” Luckenbrock occupied one of these cells. Lucky stood all of four and a half foot tall and weighed about 200 lbs. He was perpetually in the seg unit. He was deep in debt on the yard. Whenever his seg time was about up, he would do something to get “written up” so he could extend his stay in segregation. He was a nasty little man. He cussed staff. He used to shit down (throw excrement at) officers pretty regularly until a law came into affect that classified this behavior as assault and carried an added five-year sentence. All in all, Lucky was equally disliked by staff and inmate. Lucky viewed his new surroundings and spotted the sprinkler. “Ah,” he thought. “I can flood the walk without stopping up my toilet and getting my water turned off.” The problem was how to do it. He looked for something heavy to throw at the sprinkler head. He didn’t have anything heavier than a magazine. Then he got a brainstorm. He rolled up his sheet and tossed it over the sprinkler. He jumped up, grabbed the sheet and his weight broke the sprinkler head off. Lucky wasn’t prepared for what happened next. Without the sprinkler head to diffuse the water, Lucky was hit full force with a ¾ inch stream of water propelled at 90 p.s.i. The stagnant, rusty water knocked him to the opposite wall. His screams for help were unheard over the sound of the fire alarm. After the initial blast, the January temperatures caused the water pelting him to turn ice cold. The stream pummeled him for the twenty minutes or so it took to get the fire and safety officer and maintenance personnel to shut the water off. By this time, Lucky had turned a shade of blue and was shivering in the corner. He earned a new nickname that day: Lucky Smurf.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Worst Jobs #2- My First Written Reprimand

(Bear with me as I try to get most of these old posts back up.)

Smoking and other tobacco products are banned for inmates in the segregation unit. Therefore, an inmate can make some serious money or pay off a debt by successfully smuggling tobacco (and rolling papers, matches, etc.) into the unit. Every inmate is strip-searched and his property thoroughly searched before being placed in the unit. How is the tobacco smuggled in? You guessed it. The tobacco and accessories are "keestered." Which is prison parlance for having it shoved where the sun don’t shine. Many fights on the yard are started by someone with an ass full of tobacco planning to smuggle it into seg. The amount of tobacco that can be keestered by some inmates is truly staggering. Two cans worth of Topps, matches and papers is the most I’ve heard of. That’s basically two cartons worth of cigarettes. A cigarette costs about 10 postage stamps, so that guy had a veritable gold mine in his ass. Cigarette, anyone?

When the administration has evidence that an inmate is smuggling contraband in this fashion, he is taken to the infirmary and placed in a "dry cell" with no running water, no toilet; just boxer shorts, a bed, and a bedpan. Some lucky officer’s sole duty is then to constantly observe the inmate until he "makes a deposit." That’s when the fun starts. Then the unfortunate officer gets to go through the "deposit" looking for contraband. I was the unfortunate officer one time. I was still a "fish" guard working midnights.

When I arrived at work I checked the roster and noticed my post had been changed to "special hospital duty." After roll call I went to the hospital and relieved the evening shift officer. His report: "No deposits yet." "Maybe I’ll be that lucky, too," I thought. My luck don’t roll like that, though. I almost made it. It was 6:45 am and I got off at 7. Mr. Inmate got up, looked at me, and with a malevolent grin, dropped his boxers and sat on the bedpan. I was praying he would have to work it out for a while. God’s answer was no. He finished, smiled at me, and pushed the bedpan in my direction. I was a dedicated officer, so I gloved up and with tongue depressors in hand did my job. Nothing but, well you know. Now I had to write a report stating the results of my investigation. I was relieved by my day shift replacement and I wrote my report and turned it in. Now, why did I get that written reprimand? Because in my report I stated, "After conducting a thorough search of the bedpan, I found nothing noteworthy to report except a few kernels of corn." The administration doesn’t have a sense of humor. (I just noticed the first part of this title is a pun.) Worst Job #1 coming up soon. Don't worry. It soesn't deal with the same bodily function.