Dealing With Time Inside
The prison yard was the yard, nothing more, nothing less. The men moved about carefully and cautiously. As I sat still, mentally absorbed, my mind working like a calculator, reasoning and deducting in this dangerous time zone, allowing the prison and its yard to tell its tale. Watching the dust fly upward as the MS3's unsettle the loose dust of the earth, running back and forth on the patch of dirted area considered to be a make-believed soccer field in their minds. The yard didn't offer much for the imagination, glistening barbed wire fence and a distant tree line was the extent the eye could physically see, upward was heaven in the blue, cloudless distance. You could hear the steel weights clanging loosely, dangling on the weights' bars, the UB's, a small but vicious group of young men, grunting under the pressure of the weights their minds and bodies thought necessary to be prepared for what may come, up and down, up and down the weights rattled and echoed across the yard.
A soft, mild wind occasionally blew in mingled with the intense summer heat that touched and caressed my flesh as if it was alive and participating in the day. Calmly, I sat still in the warmth of the day, the sun sat high majestically high over head, beads of sweat trickled one bead at a time down the both sides of my temple. Still I sat, looking and soundly aware, conscious of my environment, it was like a snake which could strike at any moment, a bloody code could sound, I sat still, so much in this small world, small prison world to see, hear. I sat attuned with my ears and eyes wide open. You had to care and listen to all was spoken, a lot of people caused this small prison world, that sat way back off into the distant county woods to speak to those who inhabited its space. All the different voices and languages spoke and acted all at once, a traffic jam of voices, just human voices, no birds made melody song, no sound of a car engine, none of the usual inner city or town sounds. Something was crucially absent from this environment you could reason, something was causing this prison environment, the yard to be a place of numbness and rigidity. I watched the Hispanic population swell to eye opening numbers, this group claimed a share of the prison yard, and fought for a share, and fought bloody fights for to be respected. I sat still understanding that if you gave the human being very little and the very little was the end and no more type circumstance, the human being would adapt and settle for so little. The human being was worth much more than this experience. To feel, to sense, to taste in this small vicious prison environment was like a desperate drop of water falling from a near dried water line, compassionless.
I sat still, still sitting 28 long maturing years, listening and watching the cycle of years morph, shape, reshape into one type prisoner class and correctional C/O class after another. The change became more treacherously mean and violent on one part and on the other part monumentally inept to act affectively to change. A generation entered the North Carolina prison system, poorer, more indocile, more economically deprived and school-less than I ever was. This new wave of young prisoners many hadn't completed the 8th grade, nor hadn't considered the importance and need of recommitting to their educational needs while incarcerated. North Carolina once required a policy mandate any incarcerated persons without formal education was to be placed in ABE GED with no exception. I sat still, and observed a department change from high standards to a department now of low standards. North Carolina prison system was realizing that as a system built on the concept of corrections (DOC), was failing the incarcerated, and failing the tax payer miserably, the recidivism rate was 200 percent too high. The old prisoners were aging out, some dying, the most advancing out of the system, leaving no mentors to lead the old convict standard which aided the prison administration with an example from those old convicts who taught the new convict how to be a convict, over all the convict status was a positive status to live by. The old convict at least utilized the educational programs the state offered and knowingly allowed himself to mature through educational endeavors.
The winds of change blew in a new young generation correction officers, young employees who understood these new young prisoners and their ways of culture, was by honest comparison, the both is chameleon-like. They both came from the same communities and neighborhoods experiencing the same violence, the same social rules and loyalties and having someone in their families incarcerated. The difference between the both was glaring, one hadn't committed a felony. These two, the new generation correctional office was raised in a time when marijuana is advertised and being discussed casually as one casually smokes a cigarette, marijuana is recreational just like a kid doing jumping jacks. The both names are spelled differently, one correctional officer, the other inmate but one in the same. The new Secretary of Correction recently headed up and established a new office to investigate correctional officer misconduct and desire to carefully scrutinize inmate grievances filed on bad correctional officer conduct which if the head is sound the body will remain diseased in spite of well sharpened rhetoric. North Carolina prison system has been struck like lightening strikes the sky. The system which is the largest employer of the state of all other employers like a leopard pace moved to change its name from the DOC to DPS, the department counseled its mission statement, running as fast as it could from its first marriage, which was correction, to safety. While dressing itself in a new stained garment, cleverness and deception is now its new personification, somewhat of a new man dressed in a new suit but as I sat on the prison yard and calmly walked within the institution, I could discern truthfully its new empty attire. I sat watching the yard as one old chain gang guard retired and faded away into time, the old prison code was deteriorating and withering away like the old yellow paint lifting itself and fading away from the walls inside the old buildings. I sat still and quiet watching the times revealing its new constructions, wondering what all this could mean in the coming years I was witnessing. Still, the MS3's kicked the half deflated basketball up and down on the dusty, small area of yard, which was a grassy patch now an area of the yard where dust clouds whirled and settled on the now timely made soccer field, a memorable nostalgia of the Mexican's native game.
The UB's worked their bodies into muscle bulging shape, the AB's tattooed their flesh until there was no uncovered area on their bodies for a tat gun to move anymore. The winds of life blew in a different culture, unknown to my prisoner class. I was alien to the language and behaviors of the new generation mores and repulsively mordant to the new generation social manners towards me. Comparatively so, the new correctional officer's language and manners is vicarious. Twenty-eight years in this small prison existence I sat still as time taught and spoke of its realities, I listened and sat frightened but spiritually ready to make war against anything that falsely exalted itself above what wasn't right. I sat still, looking, but not accepting behaviors, alien to my convict status, I could never think to devour my fellow inmate but to help in opening my hand wide and to form words with my tongue to lift up. I sat still, frightened by what I was seeing, communication inwardly with my spirit like Gideon did as he threshed his wheat in his valley.
Gang language was new, gang violence was new, the use of dental floss to cut cleanly and precisely through a plastic chair to manufacture a knife was just as one from the store and could cut you like a straight razor. Stabbings, violence, blood spill, as red as crimson fell thoughtlessly to the prison welled polished floors, the sounds of more codes and newer named codes was heard. Gang wars, officer orchestrated hits, bloody knife fights become rife, drugs, new drugs. I sat still and listened as the new prison culture controlled and made numb prison administration across the state, administration was toppled and pounded like Muhammad Ali methodically pounded his opponent. The gang culture unveiled its offal and ungodly mores and desires right in front of all to see, the vanities of the culture of the new inmate come in like a hurricane gaining intensity off the coast, you watched helplessly you prepared, to no avail. The system in engulfed, most correctional officers have become a part of the problem, some see but don't act, some are gang members, some guilty by association, some neutral. The correctional officer employee turnover rate is alarming, correctional officer position vacancies can never adequately be filled to required ratio normalcy, to inmate ratio, which is the cause of most inmate assaults gone unrecognized this circumstance emboldens the possibility of carrying out an attack. I sat on the yard and walked inside the prison, watching this new violent plague consume and sway many to complicity, inmate and correctional officer alike and even upper management members conform to the pressure of the new prisoner class culture. This class has forced many to participate in its behaviors. I feel as the old prophets felt, I fight not to be overtaken or persuaded to accept any of the beliefs the new system holds to be right, the system has accepted to be persuaded by the new prisoner class culture. The system has began to reward bad behavior and disdain good behavior to elaborate would be extensive.
Many correction officers are an integral part and force of the perpetration of drugs and money and sex for many in the culture. The new correction officer dresses in its authority, in this uniform brides are accepted, thoughtfully devised ways to profit from the illegal, illicit drugs that's brought in through the prison gates to gang members, these correctional officers are many and satiated like thorns on a thorn bush who are organized in groups, and by design oversee and perpetrate the horrors that now inhabits the prison system.
I sit still, I feel the fear of those innocent who can't speak who can't find a means of escape from the pressures of all the violent men, the violence of gang force, hits, which push relentlessly against their inner thoughts day after day. The psychology of go along to get along, the new psychology of contorting wrong into right. Still I sit on the yard experiencing the vindictiveness of correctional authority brute control of the inmate to accept, and bow to what I tell you even when it's not correct prison policy but contrived policy intended to allow those in authority whether case manger etc. to treat the incarcerated as authority deems fitting. To not grieve, to not say one I outta or you will suffer your intention, the reality is my lie our weighs your truth. Can I say there exists a small pocket of dedicated correctional officers, obsoletely, truth must become a flashlight.
The correctional officer of today in North Carolina came from low income backgrounds, the average salary of the correctional position is at the poverty line, with dependents the average correctional officer in North Carolina qualify for the subsistence program or food stamps. Most of these correctional employees today as opposed to past times are overwhelmingly blacks. The statistical count of white correctional employment has subsided. Large concentration of blacks are employed in the worst and most violent institution in North Carolina. However, white male and female are your heads of these prisons and drive the politics of North Carolina's prison system. Within the last 15 years correctional employment has become diverse in some areas of the state but the overwhelming hirings in corrections in North Carolina has been black women, black women are being awarded most often promotional position, which should be a cause for alarm, especially in male prison environments. As I still sit, quietly on the yard and interact within the institutional setting, I see on a greater scale, sexual activity. The female correctional officer has from the very beginning exerted gender prowess in the male prison, most commonly with the male officer. Policy was established to expose and separate correctional staff relationships. Today the female correctional officers are having sexual contact with the inmate, enticed by brides, by sheer pleasure. I see the illicit drugs and pills and the accumulation of goods from the drug trade, that's alluring and worth the risk for female correctional officers, some correctional officers male and female have not to look far for the procuring of drugs, it's right in their low income housing areas. These types know that it's nothing to conceal drugs, phones and walk through little to no security at all. The record will reflect that the percentage of arrests of correctional officers in North Carolina are that of female correctional officers. It's not known how many are caught because another convictions officer is revealing corruption but is found out because inmates reveal the officer for a lenient deal the institutional authority makes with the most of the time a reputed gang banger.
I sit still on the yard and walk through the institution astonished that the system of people who were instrumental in producing a convict of good judgement and conscious, these old guards of long ago, who cared and believed in integrity and positive purposed mission standards has faded away, I cry, who believe in the report, still I sit and watch.
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