Posts Tagged ‘custody’

Upselling Prison #4

Friday, July 14th, 2017

A former inmate sizes up detention products, #4 in a casual series.

Accessories, upgrades, add-ons, telecoms, toilets, and the first responders of the detention supply industry.

It’s a dubious distinction, I know, but I’ve been among the first 75 inmates to populate a brand new prison. The place hadn’t even been “officially” opened and it wasn’t entirely complete; it took months for the technological marvel it was said to be to actually function as designed. But while Where Excuses Go to Die (the book) can tell you a lot more about that story, today we return to those particular design elements and specialized detention products that represent modern mass incarceration in America. Unlike previous editions, this time we’ll look at just one pressing problem: inmates who stop up cell house toilets and the wastewater control systems that swallow every dinner, document, dictionary, and domino thrown at ’em.
(more…)

Smart Prerelease Instruction: Inmates Helping Inmates

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

The double-edged-sword of getting out of prison.

For those of us who follow incarceration and reentry issues, the inmate-created, inmate-run, prerelease program in Cumberland, Maryland, that was just approved by the Federal Bureau of Prisons will be something to keep an eye on.

Ideally, Young Men Incorporated (YMI), as the program is known, will prove that switching from curriculum enforcement to the much more coercive power of wisdom and teachable moments is the right way to reinvent prisoner reentry methodology.

Hitting your release date and getting out is a trip. Individual results may vary, but when it comes to civilian employees, frontline custody personnel, and prison administrators, soon-to-parole inmates often face disparagement and placating attitudes. The way some Badges see it, you’re still a criminal, soon to be protected by rights that weren’t there a couple of weeks ago. More than a few are just waitin’ for you to act special, by which I mean individual. (more…)

Life in a Prison Classroom

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

Pre-Release Classrooms are the Future of Prison Reform_Where Excuses Go to DieI know life in a prison classroom, and the learning environment you may or may not find once you’ve taken a seat.

A brief click-through of “5 Projects to Watch in 2016” from Correctional News leaves me wondering how much prison officials really know about the obstacles inmates face just getting through a detention facility’s classroom door. What does it matter, you ask? Well, in an era where words like “reform,” “rehabilitation,” and “recidivism” are on everyone’s lips, it’s important to know when a component as critical as education is simply being given lip service.

Correctional News covers prison operations, design, and construction. It celebrates grand openings and groundbreakings because imminent completion dates tend to matter to rubber mattress merchants, vendors of detection products, and shower flooring suppliers.

Currently showcased are the East County Detention Center near Palm Springs, for example, which is set to open in 2017, the Kern County justice facility in Bakersfield, and the new Utah State Prison, among others. California being where I paid my debt to society, I tend to monitor its prison system more closely than I do others. But all of these entries have something in common, and that’s my point: they feature anemic descriptions of the education facilities also under construction. Rehabilitation-as-footnote here, will eventually make corrections administrators and state officials look as though they’re simply hanging wreaths of rehabilitation on freshly painted classroom doors and leaving it at that. (more…)

A Felon, Just Like Me

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

Former LASD Sheriff Baca_Where Excuses Go to Die__Photo ABC NewsHaving written fundraiser remarks for disgraced LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, and having been big-bro bear-hugged by him after confessing to teleprompter typos, it’s hard to hate the man who ran a law enforcement mafia.

He hugged me because he was relieved to be offstage. Fifty-cent words weren’t easy for Baca, I’d been warned, and this was a big night. Just before he’d taken the podium, I realized I’d failed to yank one word in particular, and sure enough he flubbed it. Regardless of how I felt about his Men’s Central Jail deputies — or anything else related to that American flag-wrapped night at the Beverly Hilton — I was the show writer. I had to tell him it was my mistake, not his. (more…)

Let’s Talk about Package Thieves

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

WHITE TRASH CHILD LABOR__Where Excuses Go to Die

Abandoning skanky mattresses and furniture are hate crimes, and package thieves are cut from the same cloth.
These rats need skewering.

Few things get under my skin as much as abandoned, humped-on furniture, but package thieves come pretty close. And, ’tis the season for these losers to come out of their pain med stupors long enough to use what semblance of societal normalcy they possess as a cloak for their cowardice. Like this guy, who literally takes his toddler out of its stroller to make the kid grab someone’s package.

But guess what, dummies? Here’s where your excuses go to die, ’cause what the hell will you have to say for yourselves when you get caught? (more…)

RELEARNING REENTRY ISSUES

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

STAR IN YOUR OWN NETFLIX SERIES_Where Excuses Go to DieLearning prisoner reentry issues means relearning prison.

If we don’t resist the manner in which we’ve been trained to recognize incarceration and the incarcerated, offenders will only continue to be recycled through the system rather than redirected.

Black has always been the New Orange_Where Excuses Go to DieAmericans need to unlearn prison and relearn life behind bars, but not because prison reform is a growing national dialogue: bandwagons produce hot exhaust already. We need to be reeducated because our understanding of the poor coping skills, pressure, and PTSD faced by those emerging from detention has been the stuff of movie jokes for as long as any of us can remember. Mutated by Hollywood and put off by unpleasantness, most Americans can’t get past convict caricatures to see key subtleties that must become part of our awareness. And I do mean ours: taxpayers, you, me, and Law-abiding Larry — not just the social workers we usually leave to resolve issues of recycling vs. redirecting.

Following my own successful parole, I never expected to become a prison commentator or a conveyor belt of questions about confinement, but I can never seem to escape the little strings in life that lead back to my experiences behind bars. Each one returns me to lessons learned “inside” that now take civilian form on a daily basis. In fact, those lessons accompany me so doggedly, I’m constantly comparing in-custody versions to civilian values and principles. Witnessing inmates upholding the same rules they utterly failed to live by “outside” was and remains fascinating. At the same time, it makes sense that a closed culture like the one behind bars would enforce a rapid and uncompromising assimilation process. (more…)

Upselling Prison Pt. 2

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Upselling Prison Part 2_Where Excuses Go to DieA former inmate sizes up detention products, #2 in a casual series.

Upselling Prison:  accessories, upgrades, add-ons, and salespersons of the detention supply industry.

Norix Inc. claims it doesn’t just make prison mattresses: it makes “Comfort Shield® Remedy Mattresses.” And if cost equalled quality, Comfort Shields would clearly be a cut above. But ask anyone on the inside, and a prison mattress is a prison mattress is a prison mattress. They’re subject to the worst an infected wound has to offer; and they get clutched, twisted, and chewed on like nobody’s business. For something that has more prayers Prison inmates wouldn't have looked at Jesus' mattress twice_Where Excuses Go to Diewhispered into it than Israel’s Western Wall and all of Islam’s worry beads, nothing has less to show for it than a prison mattress.

It’s kind of tough to wrap your head around trading a pair of shoes (or several meals) to obtain a less “raped” one, but it’s what you do. Otherwise, as we once heard an intake sergeant say to a complainer, “it’s mind over mattress.”

Fortunately, distinguishing bloodstains from even less pleasant discolorations gets easier after, say, month three. But the marks inmates leave behind aren’t limited to bodily fluids or semi-solids: prisoners love writing gang names, anti-Semitic messages, zip codes, and their sweetheart’s initials on the very bedding into which your tears will be absorbed.

Naturally, these handwritten hieroglyphics can be more indelibly printed onto older cotton mattress covers than the newfangled, vinyl laminate “wipe ‘n cleans,” so these days one needs to make sure his ink has dried before drifting off to dreamland. While most ink dries quickly, sweat can often reactivate it, and entering a chow hall wearing gang signs on your face that are only decipherable by the fellas planning a hit on “those fools” after breakfast is really something to avoid. And trust me, you’ll want to take the time to check for swastikas drawn in magic marker by the guy before you. The rule is: read your mattress first and watch where you put your face.

For the record, endlessly violated (and absorbent) cotton mattress covers are actually preferable to the newer sealed plastic pads – unless you enjoy marinating in your own sweat at 3:30 in the morning. Besides, wipe ‘n cleans get weird blisters that make you wonder how your body heat could have caused mystery chemicals to churn and gurgle beneath the vinyl.

(more…)

Upselling Prison

Friday, September 5th, 2014

No matter what your prisonware supplier tells you - these do NOT age wellA former inmate sizes up detention products, #1 in a casual series.

It’s a dubious distinction, I know, but I’ve been among the first 75 inmates to enter a brand new prison. The place hadn’t been “officially” opened yet, and it wasn’t even entirely complete. In fact, it took months before the technological marvel it was said to be actually began to function as designed. My memoir, Where Excuses Go to Die, can tell you more about that story; today we’re simply going to look at some of the design elements and corrections products that represent modern incarceration in America.

Big phone companies rip off inmate familiesI bring up my own experience because, in the absence of a boisterous and threatening prison population, I actually had the luxury of appreciating the punitive design genius behind shelving, inmate phones, door hinges, mattresses, linens, flooring, high pressure laminate table tops, mirrors, hooks and hardware, and so forth – almost as if they’d been displayed in an art gallery. It was spooky and (relatively) wonderful.

Imagine an essentially empty prison, almost entirely free of brutality, toothless Yard apes, and the white power hoo ha they blabber on about. It didn’t last, of course, but I treasured it while it did. Throughout the following year, inmates and staffers recognizing each other from that quieter time enjoyed something of a secret handshake, as if we were a step above unappreciative newcomers. It made eye contact and common goals a bit easier for us both to reach.

At any rate, whether you take your first custody turd in a prison cell, a county jail, or a police substation, sitting on your first steel pot will make you wonder what sadist invented such an uncomfortable throne. (more…)

Holding Cells Aren’t Sexy

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

With ABC’s new Take the Money and Run, Americans can cozy up to custody, interrogation, and being informed on by family and friends.

Screenshots courtesy of ABC

Maybe it’s my PTSD talking, but is this really the best time for people to be asking themselves if they can withstand a police interrogation? Sure, if you’re a television producer the answer is (spit-take) hell yes, but what about the rest of us?

If you haven’t seen ABC’s primetime show, Take the Money and Run, its proposition is simple: you and a partner hide $100,000 somewhere (more…)