posted on Mar, 3 2007 @ 10:23 AM
I work in a prison as a nurse in the mental health unit (criminally insane).
Where to start? Where to start?
First: these people are not in prison for singing too loudly in the choir. They're criminals. Not just lawbreakers but criminal-minded.
Seconly: the mentally deranged ones CANNOT function in society and it is a kindness to clothe, house, feed them and keep them away from society at
That said, the guards are not the only ones watching over these prisoners. When I see a guard deliberately provoking an inmate, I speak out. They
can get in big trouble for torturing, abusing or mistreating inmates. Plus, tormenting the emotionally frail makes my job (and theirs) harder. They
have to be seen by the inmates as "in control" or in authority and so their role is different than mine. We joke about playing "good cop, bad
cop" in our roles at the prison but there's an element of truth to that.
The prison I work at is more like a college campus with library access, canteen privileges, gym, chapel, etc. These are rewards that can be taken
away and "levels" (of privileges) dropped with unacceptable behavior on the part of the inmate. They are not "perks" but methods of controlling
behavior-incentives to behave. They can be put in "lockdown" (solitary confinement) for gross offenses, ie, fighting, sexual behavior (consensual
or not), etc.
Over half of our yard is comprised of child molesters, and while I personally loathe child molesters, professionally I admit that they are the most
well behaved prisoners we have (generally speaking). It pains me to realize that they will do their time quietly, without incident, and get out to
reoffend. Child molesters even admit they can not be rehabilitated. Many other prisoners are in for drug related offenses and are not violent,
although they are (or have been) unrepentent thieves to support their drug habits. They are a danger to society because they prey on society for
their addiction. The murderers are generally decent, otherwise law abiding people who, in an fit of passion, killed someone (lover, etc.) Their
crime can not be condoned whatever their reason and they deserve their punishment but I am not afraid to walk among them in the yard.
Then there are those who are just nuts, whacko, thoroughly delusional and are a danger to themselves and others no matter what situation they are in.
I pray to God they never get out.
No matter what they are in there for, rules and policies and procedures exist for the staff to follow in dealing with the inmates. A breech of these
rules is a serious offense and can lead to dismissal of the staff member or charges being filed against them. I don't know how caustic gases could
get into a prison from any source. I have to go through a search of my person every day when I show up for work and they have confiscated the
silliest things (cookies I made for staff members, etc.). Torture is not allowed in any form or fashion and will be dealt with promptly. Guards do
not have free reign to torment as they please. There are too many people who also deal with the prisoners and ask uncomfortable questions about how
that inmate got those marks, burns, cuts, whatever. This is not Shawshank Redemption where the guards beat to death prisoners just for jollies.
Prisoners do throw bodily fluids on staff members, do attack them without provocation, do behave like savages unpredictably despite treating them
fairly and with courtesy. That's why they're called criminals. I try to keep in mind at all times where I am and not get too comfortable with my
work environment. Some of these people are quite personable, likeable even but I never let that affect my dealings with them professionally. I keep
them emotionally at a distance and treat them like any other patient I've ever treated. Inmates have access to remedy and recourse for any abuses
they feel they have suffered and all complaints are thoroughly investigated. All in all, our system for dealing with societal predators is pretty
darn good. There are more checks and balances than there are currently in our federal government. We consistently work at about half the amount of
needed staff in a dangerous, stressful environment, isolated, grossly underpaid, under constant scrutiny from regulatory agencies,etc.
One last thing. To give you an idea of how good our prisons are here (comparatively speaking, I suppose), we had an illegal alien from Mexico who was
about to be released and deported back to his own country. He was a non-violent offender and a model prisoner but the thought of being a free man in
his own country was, to him such a step down from his life in an American prison, that he hung himself rather than be deported back to Mexico.