Tag Archives for " staff "

Sep 21

Food Strike Aftermath

Prison Life

Sunday, June 24th, 2012 |

The first thing we noticed on Saturday morning was a heavy police presence and this would continue all weekend. But the camp is pretty much back to normal after the food strike on Friday.

Our unit and another were shaken down on Saturday afternoon. Our unit was shaken down once again on Sunday.  My cell was not even touched during these shakedowns and we were locked out briefly. This tells me that they were looking in certain cells. In fact, they took a few more guys off the compound because of cell phones.

The only real silly thing was that they didn’t serve any fruit on Sunday because they found five bananas in someone’s locker on Saturday. Everything seems normal but with more cops around.

Friends that had visitation on Saturday and Sunday reported light turnout since loved ones couldn’t confirm visitation plans because the phones are shut down. I was also told that there was a noticeable higher number of COs watching the visitors than normal. That could also be the case since the staff were being forced to be at the camp, and the visitation room is the most comfortable place to be.

Problems Prompting Food Strike

As I reflect on the last several days, I realize that the problems in the camp started many months ago, but particularly started when the washers and dryers were removed. That was the first thing that got the camp riled. It snowballed through punitive inspections, shakedowns, hassles from our “Super-Co” and the wrongness of the inmate death. The walk-off of an inmate was the first drastic measure taken by an individual who couldn’t take it anymore.

I realize the importance of keeping cell phones off the compound and they should. The question is whether the entire community should be punished or just the guys with the cell phones.  The administration decided to punish the community for the actions of a few bad apples, thus the community came together to make a simple statement by refusing to eat in the dining hall for one day.

Assistant Warden was a Major Contributing Factor to the Food Strike

The AW blew everything out of proportion and threw gasoline on the flames. She would have been better if she simply said, “I hear you, now let’s work together to resolve the cell phones.” By punishing the community, she started an act by the community. All of this was totally unprofessional on her part and disruptive to camp security and control, not to mention the staff.

The AW also compounded the problem further by taunting the guys. She told staff all last week that the campers were soft, had no guts, “they won’t do anything”, among many other comments. These comments were also made directly to campers minding their own business. Today she was going up to guys in the dining hall and saying, “you have something to say to me?”

These comments are enough to incite another food strike. The AW also said that if we acted like penitentiary prisoners we didn’t belong in the camp. She had already turned off the TVs a week ago and it was very evident that she was looking for an excuse to take away the privileges of the weight pile. All her statements were creating problems where problems didn’t exist. Most guys just want to do their time and that’s it.

Finally, she said she had intercepted letters and BP-10s intended for BOP Regional and Washington complaining of her actions. I don’t know how she can cover everything up. She really made herself look bad!

Impact of Food Strike on Other Staff

In addition, the AW clearly usurped the authority of the camp administrator and imposed burdens on other staff. We rarely saw the camp administrator all weekend. We got a lot of feedback from other staff. They resented having to spend overtime and effort in 90+ degree heat. We also heard that news of the food strike on the camp spread through the rest of the complex. Everyone, staff and other inmates, were surprised at what the campers did and the ensuing reaction.


Aug 29

Staff Changes

Prison Life

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 |

We are becoming aware of some staff changes from several of the staff.  They said the camp administrator was no longer here, but on medical leave. She had a lot of medical problems and had taken a lot of leave in the past year. I sure this is the best thing for her, and it is great news to us.

We have an “acting” camp administrator that we know nothing about. It couldn’t be any worse than what we had. There’s has been no general announcements about any of the management changes. I find this extremely unusual coming out of the corporate world. There are so many rumors going around you wouldn’t believe it. This is called “inmate.com”.

It will be interesting to see what changes are made by the new “acting” camp administrator or a new permanent administrator.

Camp Doctor Leaving

The other change concerns our camp doctor.  Apparently, he is taking a FMC complex medical administration position. I have mixed thoughts about this change. On the one hand, he did protect some inmates from relocation when he thought it was in their best interest.  We had good conversations about medical conditions. I also thought that he was generally trying to do his best. On the other hand, the medical staff under his supervision are incompetent and totally lacks judgment and compassion. In reality, the entire medical staff needs to be transferred out of the camp and new blood brought in. The inmates have no confidence and respect for the medical staff. I’ve written extensively about this subject.

In addition, it still grates me that a nurse stood over an inmate while he was having a medical emergency.  Nurse Valentine accused him of faking it rather than calling for an ambulance. Instead, she told the COs to take him to the hole. As I have said before, he died in front of the nurse and the two COs trying to get him handcuffed and shackled. They just watched him die. There has been no investigation that we have seen.  None of the inmates have been interviewed. Furthermore, none of the staff involved were put on administrative leave pending investigation.

In my opinion, these BOP staff were at the very least negligence in his death, and at worse, were willfully neglectful. As I said before, I fully expect BOP to whitewash this whole thing. Given the chance, the BOP will blame the inmate’s bad health including diabetes, heart issues, etc. to deflect attention from their culpability. They’ll probably get away with it.

Aug 17

Overzealous CO Enjoys His Power

Prison Life

Monday, May 14th, 2012 |

An inmate, who is in the inter-racial relationship, was caught holding hands during visitation with his girlfriend. He was warned by our overzealous CO, Opie, who I have designated as the Super CO. Technically, the rules state that an inmate can hold hands and kiss once at the beginning of the visit, and once again at the end of the visit.

Just before the guy got up to end visitation, he briefly held the hand of his girlfriend again. He was called up by Opie, and was told he was not getting a shot for it.  Instead, Opie would search the guy’s locker. Opie searched the locker and found a couple of magazines with someone else’s mailing label.  In addition, he had more than five magazines. Opie threw enough magazines away to get the number to five.

Opie could have given shots to both the inmate and the guy who gave the magazines to him. I have never heard of this rule being enforced at the camp. The BOP limits the number of magazines because an inmate could tape the magazines to his body creating body armor. Obviously, this shouldn’t be an issue at a camp.

An inmate cannot give ANY property (including magazines) to another inmate. Opie is just being a major pain, and he enjoys it. The inmate is probably going to write-up Opie because he thinks that Opie singled him out because of the inter-racial relationship.

Will Karma work against the staff?

I was wondering how karma work with some of the staff here. For example, how would Opie like to get a traffic ticket for doing one mile over the speed limit? That’s a good comparison for his lack of judgment and discretion with the shots he is giving or threatening.

We also see the out and out hate that some of the staff spews towards the inmates. It is the type of hate that will eat someone from the inside out. This is also true with the callousness and disrespect towards the inmates. The perfect example was when the COs carted out the dead inmate on a stretcher.  They allowed his hands to drag on the pavement. There’s nothing we can do to change the system. If only the public knew!

Aug 11

Inmate Death in My Unit

Prison Life

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012 |

Gary, a cell neighbor, died in our unit this morning. The guy had a lot of medical and personal problems. He had a bad back that required him to be on morphine 24/7.  Gary rarely left his cell – mostly to go to the cafeteria and pill line. He was supposed to go home in September.  An inmate death is always a big deal in prison.

Gary had a strained relationship with his wife. He told guys that a probation officer went to his house to check it out for home confinement.  His wife told the PO that she didn’t want him back in the house. Gary’s wife recently (in the past two weeks or so) filed for divorce. He told me that his wife was laying claim to his property, and he was very distressed about it.

In addition, he got a shot two weeks ago for “stealing” and “disobeying a direct order”. This was for taking his food out of the cafeteria after being told he couldn’t do it. He never looked healthy since I have been here.

We don’t know the entire story of this inmate death, but this is what we do know:

Gary had what everyone thought was a panic attack. He was yelling and flailing his arms. An inmate called “222” on the emergency phone for help. Medical and the COs came down to the unit. He fell out of his bed and was still in panic attack condition. Gary told everyone to get out of his cell and leave him alone.

However, the COs took charge and told the inmates to get out of the unit. Unbelievably, a nurse made the decision that he was ok and was only faking. All medical personnel then left the unit.

The CO’s pulled out cuffs and shackles to take him to the hole. Then, we don’t know exactly what happened next.  But, he must have died when it was just the COs and Gary there. The COs called medical back into the unit. All the inmates were locked down in other units for the next two hours (they never want the inmates to witness things like this).

Gary was seen on a stretcher leaving the unit by some guys, and he appeared dead. Ultimately, they let all the inmates out for lunch. Shortly thereafter, a “town hall meeting” was called to announce his death by the chaplains. They said that the cause of his death was unknown. I asked if there would be an autopsy, and was told “yes” since it is required by state law, given the circumstances.

With all the guy’s medical and personal problems, he could have died of almost anything. Obviously, there are all sorts of rumors circulating around. I doubt if we’ll ever get the full story, but I hope his family does.

Aug 04

Quarterly Rotation of COs Creates Adjustments

Prison Life

Saturday, April 28th, 2012 |

I have written about the quarterly rotation of COs. It takes a couple of months to get used to the idiosyncrasies of each CO. There are a lot of weird personalities. For example, the recreation CO argued with the inmate photographer during visitation. He could have waited until there were not families around the visitation room. I’m sure he didn’t think that anyone noticed, but they did. This same CO is driving an inmate, who works in rec, crazy with stupid stuff.

Opie was the evening CO when I first got here. He rotated out of the camp last quarter, and he is on the day shift this quarter.  There is not another CO who causes as much grief as this guy does. This is the only CO who the inmates have given a nickname. The biggest bone of contention now is his insistence of calling lockdown census at 9 am and 1 pm every day.  I think this guy is a control freak, and he goes overboard in his enforcement of the “rules”. He wants us to know that he can interrupt our day anytime he wants. He’s also constantly going through lockers and searching for cell phones throughout the whole compound. We just shake our heads now.

The fill-in relief food service COs seem to change most often. The food service CO, who I like a lot, was working in the afternoon last quarter, and is working mornings now through the end of the year. The guy who was working mornings is now on the afternoons, so they just switched. All this means is that we are used to these two COs and we can adapt. The fill-in COs seem to be a weird bunch, and you just don’t know what to expect if you happen to work for one of them.

There’s a new CO here that was transferred from a standalone camp to Butner. He was amazed at the controls at the Butner camp. He even stated that we were really in a “low” without the fence. This is true. There is no one here that poses a risk to society, or they wouldn’t be in the camp in the first place.

As an example, the unit doors are locked for a half hour before each meal, a half hour before each count, and during the night. I’m not sure how much this really matters if there is no fence and someone can walk off at any time anyway. Also, since they locked the doors before each meal, there is a mad rush by the guys to get into the chow line. This causes chow line back-ups.

Some COs will let the line go down each time until the next unit is released. They should have a policy where the chow line opens at a set time and closes at a set time, and abide by that schedule. Just let guys be responsible to show up at chow or not. Their current practices treat grown adults as children. The entire process is counter-productive.

I’m not saying there are a bunch of out-of-control COs. Most of the COs are respectful and professional. There are always a few that create tension

Jul 06

COs and Staff Rotate Between Facilities Quarterly

Prison Life

Friday, March 23rd, 2012 |

COs and some staff rotate between the different facilities on a quarterly basis. This is the first week of the new quarter and some of these guys are going to take getting used to.

There is one guy who thinks he is super cop. Everyone calls him Opie behind his back.  He got the nickname because he looks like Opie from “The Andy Griffith Show.”  Opie hates his nickname and would be quick to make trouble for a guy who calls him by that name.

Our new “SuperCop” is nicknamed Opie, after Ron Howard’s character in the Andy Griffith Show

Opie spends all his time searching lockers, and generally creating havoc where it is not necessary. For example, he called both an AM census and a PM census yesterday. A census is where the campers return to their units, they lock the doors, and a CO comes through to mark your name off their list (like a roll call). In the past, there may be one or two weekly AM census, and I don’t recall any PM census. I’m told other camps don’t do this at all. It is unheard of to do both in one day.

The food service COs rotate a week or two after the regular rotation. I can’t wait until the morning CO rotates out of food service. He is a total jerk to the extent that you don’t know if he is serious when he is talking. I also believe he is a racist.

Steel Toed Boots for Weight Lifting

I have been lifting weights in my walking shoes as opposed to the required steel toe shoes. Apparently, Opie is a stickler for details including the steel toe boots on the weight pile. The Laundry Department would not give me steel toed boots without turning in my soft shoes despite my plantar fasciitis. I complained to my counselor. She talked to Medical and they told her the same thing as Laundry told me. I asked what sense does it make for me to worsen my plantar fasciitis for the sake of lifting weights a few hours a week. This is typical asinine treatment we get that makes no sense whatsoever. I’ll have to talk to the Camp Administrator but she is not the type of person to do anything.

Jun 01

Staff Attitude Towards Inmates

Prison Life

Thursday, January 19th, 2012 |

Regarding the staff attitude towards inmates, I experienced condescension from the administrative staff on three different occasions yesterday. This is as common with the camp administrative staff as much as with the medical staff. In so many ways I find this funny. My fellow inmates agree. Here are people with little education and status talking down to their fellow man simply because they can. For the most part, these people seem very unhappy and mad at the world.  They have high-paying but dead-end jobs, and they have little regard for others. How hard is it to treat others with respect? I try to stay away from the staff as much as I can.  But, interaction is inevitable.

It’s also interesting because I do not get the same treatment from the COs. One of my friends theorized that the COs get rotated to different prisons within Butner. The camp is easy for them. If they treated prisoners with disrespect in, say, the Deuce (Butner’s high-security prison) where many of the guys have life sentences, they would get beat up.  One of the COs that has a reputation of causing unnecessary trouble with the inmates also works at the Deuce. He was once chased down the hall by an inmate who was mad at the CO for some reason. Most, but not all, COs won’t treat the inmates with disrespect.

I had more of a problem at the Low with a few COs.  I was probably overly sensitive since it was my first two weeks in prison. The Hole was totally a different story though. Nearly all COs treated the prisoners with disrespect, if not hostility.

For example, there was one CO who handcuffed me to take me out to the recreation yard. I made a very simple and kind request to be placed in the part of the yard with the least amount of sun because of my skin condition. He responded by lifting my handcuffed arms high behind me forcing my upper body to push down. He did this twice. This cruelty was totally uncalled for. In addition, it hurt. Other COs in the Hole would routinely ignore your requests, and, for the most part, be rude. I guess they don’t see the need for common decency to the guys in the Hole.

May 23

Blame Inmate

Prison Life

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012 |

This is a classic story of the BOP “blame inmate” game.  A guy here was given keys and a radio to hold by a woman CO. He immediately dropped them because inmates can’t hold these items. I don’t know what the CO was thinking. The CO wrote the guy up for not obeying her order to hold the items.

However, the whole event was videotaped, and a lieutenant happened to be watching the camera. The lieutenant saw him with the keys and radio, and had him thrown in the hole! Here he was trying to do the right thing and he gets screwed.  This is a no-win situation for the inmate.  There is very little he can do in these circumstances.

Meanwhile, he was supposed to be transferred by bus to another prison. But, the Marshall Service bus left before he could get out of the hole. He appealed to the warden (or somehow the warden got involved), and the warden got him out of the hole. He must wait for another transfer bus. Thank God, the warden solved the issue, but what a cluster f@#k!  All strange but true.

It is very common for BOP staff to blame inmates for their incompetence, or for anything that goes wrong.  This is part of the mentality of BOP personnel – the inmate is always at fault.  I have seen counselors, case managers, the camp administrator, medical staff and COs all blame campers unnecessarily.  Shifting blame to inmates is part of the BOP culture.  Inmates must be very careful not to put themselves in position where this blame could fall upon them.  The repercussions can be very serious.  Never trust any BOP staff member!

May 04

BOP Arrogance

Prison Life

Friday, November 25th, 2011 |

BOP arrogance is apparent every day.  I’m scheduled to teach 3 classes in the new year. Based on my discussions with the education coordinator, it became apparent that it is common for the camp to copy books for the campers rather than buying new (or used) books. I checked with other friends, and they said – “yes” – this is common, and not just at Butner, but at other institutions as well.  There’s no reason for the BOP to violate an author’s copyright. It is stealing because it takes money away from the publisher and author.

This reminds me of another story an inmate told me.  He was at the FMC when he heard a contract nurse complain to a BOP employee that something she was being asked to do was either unethical, or possibly immoral. The employee responded – “Oh no, we are the federal government, we can do whatever we want”. This is arrogance that we should not expect from our own government.

Apr 28

Team Meetings

Prison Life

Thursday, November 10th, 2011 |

I had my team meeting last night. We have a counselor for everyday issues and a case manager for our overall incarceration issues. The inmates have team meetings with the case manager and counselor every 6 or 12 months depending how long you have left.

These meetings could be much more worthwhile than they are. The BOP uses a form that sets goals and documents certain aspects of your incarceration. The meetings last five minutes or less. This gives you an indication about how lightly these meetings are taken.

The case manager started telling me about vocational training including boiler training. I laughed. The last thing anybody needs is a wrench in my hands. I explained that I have agreed to teach several classes.  I am not a candidate for vocational training. She caught on quick and asked if I could teach “job skills training”. I’m not exactly sure what that means but I agreed to do it. I’ll get with the education coordinator next week.

The BOP has certain classes which they “require” you to take.  Money Smart and Job Skills are two of them.  They will also require the GED program if an inmate does not have a high school education or a GED already.  Butner puts a lot of pressure on inmates to take these classes.  It is common for the case manager or counselor to sanction a camper by putting them on the beach or not giving the camper halfway house time.

As a camper gets closer to going home, the case manager will start discussing the home confinement and halfway house time with the inmate.  The key thing that the campers are looking for is their “date” – being the date they leave the camp, whether it be to home confinement or halfway house.