This guest post on Corruption is from David Russell. David is a corrections officer for a state correctional facility. He has worked for the state for many years. You can follow David on Twitter.
“The purpose of this post is to give an idea of what prison life is like on a day-to-day basis. I intend to show the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is not like TV, where they edit six months of film into an hour show. I will not “edit out” certain parts to make it more exciting. Nor will I explain these things in a way to make the institution look good and certain individuals look bad. I intend to present as unbiased an opinion as possible. I also intend to present the cold hard facts of prison life . Including the way that prisoners interact with each other, and their interactions with staff. I will also show how staff interacts with each other, as well as with supervisors.”
Recently the EIO coalition asked me a question about corruption inside of my prison. I told them that I would write a post on corruption at my facility. Well here it is.
I must admit, that while I complain often about my facility and the people who work there, I have not seen any major cases of corruption. They generally get rid of bad apples, as soon as they are noticed.
I will tell you what I have seen over the years. I see effects of the Stanford Prison Experiment. I won’t go into what the Stanford Prison experiment is in detail, because I believe that most of you CRJ heads already know.
In short, it is the result of an experiment done with students acting as prisoners and guards. The behavior of both groups changed based on the rolls they were assigned.
I have seen people who are not naturally mean, aggressive, nor bullies take on those rolls, because they thought that was what they had to do. I believe that the age limit should be raised to at least 25, to work inside of a prison. It is now 18. I believe that prison life at too early an age destroys people. I was 30 yrs old when I started, and still had a lot of problems adjusting to life inside.
These people take on these rolls to fit in. Everyone else acts this way, things must be what is needed. Yes, there is peer pressure in prison. As I’ve stated before, I believe that prison is a microcosm of society. What ever goes on in the world, goes on in prison to a greater degree.
I know of officers destroying prisoners’ personal property, because they were upset with them. Officers are supposed to search a certain number of cells per day. One officer was having trouble with a prisoner, and when he went to search (shake down) his cell, it is my belief that he poured water in the prisoners T.V.
I couldn’t prove it, if I had to, but the prisoner said that his T.V. was working fine before the officer went into his cell. Prisoners can’t be in the cell when an officer is doing a cell search, so the officer was in this prisoners cell alone.
I have seen officers tear up a prisoners house (cell) because they were upset with the prisoner. This is not really a violation, as much as it is simply being passive aggressive. What they do is go in and do a very thorough search and just leave the place a complete mess. We are supposed to put things back in a reasonable fashion. Reasonable is a relative term, open for interpretation.
I don’t jail that way. I prefer to face a prisoner who is acting out, and let the chips fall where they may. I don’t believe in all of this passive/ aggressive behavior. I have had prisoners come up later and say things like “my bad c/o”, I was having a bad day”.
I have suspected officers of planting razors and other dangerous contraband inside of a prisoners cell, to get them put in (the hole) segregation. Again, this is nothing that I could prove.
I say all the time, that we become experts in reading body language. On the occasion in question, the prisoner seemed legitimately surprised that a razor was found in his house. He starts screaming that so and so planted it there. I’m not sure, but I find it strange that the officer who had trouble with him the day before, found a razor in his house.
I must say that even with these issues, I have no direct knowledge of any major corruption at my facility. To my knowledge no one has smuggled in alcohol, drugs, or weapons. Of course this is something that wouldn’t be advertised would it?
See you next time, Dave