IMG_3999It’s been pretty quiet in our unit since Christmas, until last night that is.  I’ve shared before on my blog that laundry in prison can get very serious! Right before count time last night my neighbor went to put her laundry in and found someone’s laundry in her washer.  That might not seem like a big deal to people in the free world, but in prison we only get to wash every 4 days.  We sign up for a specific time and my neighbor was angry that someone took her spot. She let everyone know she wasn’t happy, I heard her coming from across the unit.  The officer on duty followed Sonia to her room and yelled, “Shut your mouth Pennington, I don’t have to listen to you.  Everyone knows you’re not going to do anything anyway, you’re a punk!” Sonia apologized for being loud and explained that someone had taken her wash. But it didn’t end there, the officer said, “Who gives a F**K! I don’t want to hear you.” Sonia said, “Okay,” and the officer continued, “You’re going to shut up during count time because we all know you’re not going to do anything but talk, you’re a punk.”  Finally Sonia said, “I was at the rec barn the day you called all the women B****s and coach put you in your place.” Sonia told the officer she witnessed our coach telling him we shouldn’t be treated disrespectfully and that we are women and should be treated with respect.  The officer walked away then came back to her room and challenged Sonia to a fight. He said, “Come on, let’s see what you got, now who’s the punk?” We all stood there with our doors open in shock. I don’t know why things always get crazy in my neck of the woods? We haven’t had that particular officer in our unit since Christmas. Quite frankly, I think he needs to get some counseling before he hurts someone.

I can only imagine how frustrating it could be at times to work in a prison. I hesitated to write the incident because the officer I’m writing about hasn’t ever bothered me personally but I’ve witnessed him numerous times harassing new inmates.  When a new inmate arrives and needs a pair of shoes many of us donate our old shoes. You are supposed to have receipts for everything you purchase in prison, for obvious reasons, so it is within the officers discretion to take the used shoes if the new girls don’t have receipts for them.  I consider this missing the mark a bit because many of these girls have nothing! They can’t afford a new pair of shoes, and the boots they issue are very hard to wear around the compound. This particular officer prides himself on taking used shoes from the new girls, I’ve witnessed many scared inmates being humiliated at his hands. We had a counselor from a different unit work in our unit last week and I was impressed with how well she kept the peace.  Of course in prison you have to be firm, the counselor was self assured and expected the women to clean their rooms and behave appropriately. Instead of bullying others, she set an example of excellence and inspired others to rise to the occasion. The counselor works at the drug building and does an excellent job helping the women there and I’ve been told she holds them accountable and teaches them to value themselves.

After count time the officer came to Sonia’s room and told her he was taking her to the Lieutenants office. If an officer accuses an inmate of being insolent he can write her a shot, which is a new charge.  He can have the inmate put in segregation and take away her good time. When the officer got outside with Sonia he told her, “I just wanted to talk to you and let you know that if you write me up for what just happened in there I will put a threat assessment on you and have you shipped.”  Meaning he would have her shipped to a different prison which I consider a threat?  He said, “I won’t retaliate by shaking down your room. I will leave you alone if you leave me alone.”  They walked to the Lieutenants office and back, fortunately Sonia wasn’t charged with being insolent. My neighbors asked me if I was planning on writing about the incident? I told them I really like to focus on the positive in prison, sometimes bad things happen though. My friend Pam got frustrated with another inmate a few days ago and said, “What is wrong with people in here?” I laughed and told her, “Well Pam, they don’t just put the good people in prison.” She started laughing too and relaxed a bit. I try to see the best in inmates and officers, and find these types of incidents to be the exception here not the rule. Many of the officers do a great job, but some of them have fallen pray to the difficult environment in which we live. Another lesson learned for me, don’t take someone’s laundry spot in Federal prison;)