I was particularly proud of this effort because it reminded me to be self-sufficient. The problem was however that the cardboard heel was harder than the cement floor.
There are a tremendous amount of psychological games being played constantly between the guards and the inmates – actually it’s mainly the guards but they seem to take a lot of sick joy out of being unhelpful. They literally can be sitting three steps away, and will not make any effort to even acknowledge an inmate’s presence. I’m sure the goal is to break you. I just ignore them all together. It’s just better that way.
Worst yet, everything that happens around here is at the whim of some unknowable, unchallengeable, unsubstantiated higher consciousness which does not provide the guards – the flock if you will – with the answers, or the means of figuring the answers out until after the fact.
Again understand I am now completely immersed in a world where all of the inhabitants are infected with an anti-conceptual mentality. And do not make the mistake of believing that one of them – or any of them -get it because it will come back to haunt you. Remember, Bottoms, the officer who walked me from 2M3, the medical unit, to my new suite, 2E12. Well for some reason, the doctor had needed to see me three times this week – the real answer is he’s feeling guilty about the course of events: my INR of 4.3; accepting my orthotics and then rejecting them; and the list goes on; so it’s become his personal mission to get me in shoes – at least personal in a very passive manner – so that I can join a work detail and get one day off my sentence for every day I work as I mentioned before. The first visit I had not received the canvas shoes as of yet from the commissary; the second time his staff forgot to pull my chart; and so now we’re prepared to let him take a look at my shoes and the cardboard lifts I’ve fashioned myself so that he, the doctor, can make his written request, or recommendation.
As I exit the day room through the locked door – controlled in the guard tower – Bottoms greets me from behind the counter at the same time the doctor does on the other side of the room.
The doctor asks, “How are you doing today, Jan?”
I reply, “Fine, I’ve got my shoes’ not…”
The guard, Bottoms, interrupts to ask me my name, as if we haven’t spoken before. Is this the same guy? I think. Could there possibly be two of them. No, I’m pretty sure it’s the same guy; I just don’t understand his posture. Did I do something to piss this guy off without knowing it? I tell him “Adams,” but I’m sure my look told him more.
Then he says, “You want to step over to this corner?”
I’m thinking, “The doctor is right here – this is him in front of me.” Why would I want to step over there? The doctor then moves his things to allow another inmate to pass, and continues with “are those shoes working?”
I reply, “No, they are not. They are not perfect, but it’s better than the slippers. My foot completely rolls out of the slippers.”
Officer Bottoms comes from behind the counter and then instructs the doctor to move to the corner of the room. He pushes his cart to the corner of the room with the “assistance” of the guard. We continue our consultation.
Now at first glance this would all seem innocent. The problem was, however, the guard was going to enforce his authority at that moment regardless of what was going on. That was a decision he made – to exercise his totalitarian authority over me – before I got through the door. That’s why when I walked through the door he confronted me. But here’s the thing. I had to come through two locked doors to get to him, and he was the one who instructed the tower to open, first my suite door, and then secondly, the module door. He knew exactly who they were letting out. But that was the problem with life in Solano County: you couldn’t count on the guards being consistent, and any chance to convey civility was met with hostility.
I asked about getting my prosthesis out of a boot in the property room so that I could use it in the heel of my shoe rather than cardboard.
Without hesitation, Bottom’s reply, “They won’t approve it.”
“Who won’t approve it?” I asked, “And how will they know not to approve it unless we ask? Until we physically take a request form to them, they’ll have no idea what we are talking about.”
The reply: “Custody won’t clear it.”
That’s an anti-conceptual mentality and it is unmistakable. Bottoms had progressed just so far in his intellectual development and had chosen – consciously chosen – to go no farther. He wasn’t even remotely open to the notion that in order to make an informed decision people needed data.
I have come to believe that a great training tool for this group might be the “One Minute Manager.” Someone needed to sit down with them and explain clearly their job description. Not for my sake, or any of the inmates mind you, but because each guard interpreted his duty differently.You get the impression they don’t really know what the job entails because not one has told them; and that’s why none of them have been able to answer a direct question the first time. Their superior consciousness – which I take to be Lieutenant Marsh – the Warden – could save himself a lot of time by not having to entertain every question, like it’s the first time it came up. The guards would not be in the position of a newborn baby; encountering every situation as if it is the first time.
Let me explain what I mean. Two days ago a female corrections officer had strip-searched our suite. Today the floor officer arrived again. We had received our lunch approximately 45 minutes earlier – bologna sandwich with two cookies, an apple, and Jim Jones juice. I had eaten my sandwich, one of the cookies, and had given my juice to my bunky. The floor guard – after heavy keys jingling at the suite entrance – had swung open the door and announced he’s here to conduct a random search.
I offer that that just happened the other day.He smiles but continues on.
Now Mike, my bunky, true to form, had been asleep all day and his lunch is sitting on the slab of metal that functions as a table/desk. Along with his sandwich are two Jim Jones drinks (I gave him mine), an orange, five Styrofoam cups – one containing old cookies; one containing his false teeth in water; one containing the single portion packets of mustard, mayonnaise, or jelly (honey flavored); one containing a spoon (plastic) – actually it’s a spork – combination spoon and fork; and the last is empty, he uses it for water to take his medications. Adjacent to that is a plastic bowl with a lid, Tupperware – which contains three – that’s right – three sandwiches. This is all Mike’s and it’s all sitting right there on the table in plain site.
Our corrections officer goes directly to my bunk, flips the mattress up, and comes to the underwear, T-shirt, and socks that serve as my pillow. I’m clean there, so he goes in my rubber made container which sits beside my bed and produces the two apples. His response is only to me, “You can’t have that,” he says. “You need to eat it or throw it out.”
Now the corrections officers have something to hang their anger on. That extra apple is contraband, and this second search is a message. I get it, they are in charge, but the problem is they don’t. They don’t get the process, only the consequences, and so can’t figure out the sequence. Lunch got there 45 minutes ago. Mike hasn’t eaten. He has two drinks because I gave him mine and in return he gave me his apple that’s why there are two. Not one has asked why. If they did, they’d know the extra apple is the result of my bunky not having teeth. You see, they are sitting there in the Styrofoam cup. But the take home message was why is he ignoring the food sitting on the table and busting my balls about an apple?
At any rate, the C/O barked something and left. My guess is they’ll be back and each time escalate the confrontation. The guards are particularly dangerous because they have forfeited their moral autonomy to someone else. Who? I suspect none of them could tell you. Simply someone above them – the answers come from upstairs.
They are dangerous because, depending on their mood, they antagonize inmates. There already exits, just below the surface this “powder keg” and it seems to be their custom to single out one of my colleagues to ride all day. If they can provoke him, they get to use some of their toys, like a taser. If they can’t they move on to another inmate. I guess today it was me.
And true to form, the confrontation – though minimal – arrived once again in the face of Officer Collins. He is traveling with the medication nurse. As is the procedure, she gives you your meds, you take them with a sip of water, and then she asks you to open your mouth to confirm that you in fact swallowed them.
I took the medications as she poured them from a cup into my palm; I surveyed them to make sure they were right. I placed them in my mouth, took a sip of water; and opened my mouth to demonstrate that they in fact had been swallowed. (Why, I’ll still never know, but apparently some of my colleagues avoid taking their meds or worse yet, keep them to sell to fellow inmates.) She thanked me and proceeded to the next door.
Collins tapped on the window to my suite and said, “Next time, open wide so she can see.” Now again, it was the nurse who acknowledged they were done and walked away. That’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is he, Collins, had done the same thing to me before only on a different module. I guess he’s such a consistent “ass” he didn’t conceptually put together that I was in fact the same exact person he had done it to on the medicine module.
I smiled at him, and this time, rather than confront him; I simply smiled and said, “OK.” The challenge had been averted. They would move on to harassing the next inmate, hopefully one that would push back so that they could get the confrontation they desperately wanted.