I, for the most part, just spend my time quietly observing my surroundings. I am not a troublemaker.
I am not an overly intelligent person. I am, to a degree, undereducated. I have never really been successful...but I can be.
I am able to reason. My ability to comprehend is, I believe, above average. I am aware of the difference between right and wrong. I believe that awareness enables me to admit when I am wrong.
I am not afraid to work. I never have been. So, here on the Clements Unit, I work. I don't mind it at all. I currently wash pots and pants in the general population kitchen. I am able to properly wash all the pots and pans used to feed nearly 2500 prisoners by myself.
It is, for sure, a thankless job. No one on this unit appreciates my hard work. As a nonperson, I am not given a right to be appreciated. Never thank, or be grateful, to the slaves.
There are some rules I follow when working in the pot and pant scullery. The first rule is always safety. The scullery floor is continually wet. So I have to be careful to not slip and fall. Also, some of the utensils have years of damage, so I have to be cautious of points, to not cut myself.
The second rule is to decide what can go down the drain without causing a backup. Oatmeal and grits can go down the drain. Vegetables, obviously, cannot. The liquid from the vegetables can go down the drain. I only try to put solid foods in the slop barrel. Putting to much liquid creates more work for the prisoners dumping the slop. The liquid also is a waste of space, and that weight is what helps cause the barrel handles to break, along with overfilling.
The third rule is to use hot water. I always wear gloves, so the hot water does not burn me. The hot water with a good sudsy detergent, will remove food particles, and most of the oil residue. I always wash the entire utensil to ensure cleanliness. I am fully aware that both offenders and officers eat the food from the utensils I wash. Cleaning them properly will keep everyone healthy.
Rule four is to rinse everything well. Again, I use hot water to get all the soap off. I don't want a soapy taste contaminating the foods.
The fifth rule is to sanitize everything I wash. This is done by placing the washed and rinsed utensils in bleach water. There is a recommended bleach to water ratio. I believe it is 50 parts per million, but it may depend on sink size. I will put the utensils in the bleach water for several minutes to ensure proper sanitation.
Next is utensil storage. I always put all utensils on edge. Never lay them flat. This keeps the water from properly draining off, and that can cause mold growth. Even is you cannot see the mold, that does not mean it is not there.
When putting the utensils on the shelf, I do not stack them on the very top shelf. This is unsafe. That top is not intended as a shelf, it is there for stability. My coworkers on the other shifts usually stack utensils on the very top. The shelf system is not designed to have excess weight put on the top.
If a prisoner slides utensils off the lower shelves, the items on top could slide off and injure them. Or, the shelf system could topple over. Just because this hasn't happened does not mean it can't.
Truthfully, the only grievance I have is with the gate on the "pot room". The staff keep it locked. I am not sure why, because there are two cameras in that space, which covers security. Locking the gate, and leaving me (or anyone else) in there for, sometimes, an hour or more without checking on me is a safety concern. If I were to slip and hit my head nobody would know. If there are two or more prisoners locked in that space and a dispute begins, one prisoner could seriously injure another. The staff would then be accountable for an unsafe situation that resulted in an offender injury.
Here on the Clements Unit a lack of awareness permeates the prisoner population, as well as staff. Things that are obvious to me, slip past those around me. If a cook continually pours hot oil down a drain, it will, after a time, solidify, plugging the drainage system. Obvious to me, not so much to others.
Working safe and clean everywhere in this prison should be common sense, but it is not. Showing appreciation to both offenders and officers should be a normal practice. We are all here by choice, so why be rude, disrespectful and unappreciative? It serves no purpose. I believe, in the interest a public safety, Clements Unit staff would exercise more diplomacy in dealing with offenders, and each other. But, they don't. Instead they alienate themselves, not only from the prisoner population, but from one another as well.
It should be obvious to the Texas government that raising the pay for prison personnel, as well as giving prisoners monetary payment for labor, would go a lot further than the bully, slave master, tactics used.
Staff, and volunteers, sometimes bring cell phones, drugs, money and other contraband to prisoners. This done for only two reasons:
1) Money. A cell phone can be bought for less than a hundred dollars. Bring it into Clements Unit and it can be sold for ten times that. An eight ball of amphetamine cost two hundred dollars on the street. Bring that three and a half grams to Clements Unit and sell it for five times that.
2) Love. Lonely women come to work here on Clements Unit, and, sometimes, they'll fall for the charming words and actions of a man that does not have anything else to offer. He only wants her ability to bring in contraband, or sex. Nothing else.
If officers were properly informed about prison life, there would be less crime committed by them. The state will never admit the training they give is flawed. It has always blamed the prisoners, and it always will. The state trains the officers to believe that every prisoner is untrustable. They teach that every prisoner is a liar. For the most part this is incorrect.
After misinforming them at training they come to work at Clements Unit and quickly see that it is not entirely as they were told. Now the officer is trying to navigate a place, and situations that they were not informed of, or misinformed about. That flawed training, combined with most people natural inclination to be accepted makes a recipe for disaster.
A new officer is easily disarmed by a cunning offender using a tried and true tactic - just let the new recruit see you joking around with veteran officers. The new officers natural desire to be accepted will kick in - bingo.
I, for the most part, just spend my time quietly observing my surroundings. There are policies and procedures in place that lay out how to do things in each prison department. If everyone here followed those procedures daily, then that would become the only way to get things done. But here at the Clements Unit, a lot of shortcuts are taken to make things easier and faster. This has been going on so long, that when the right way to do something is pointed out prisoners and staff balk. Some will even thwart efforts to do things right.
Texas could actually add money to the criminal justice budget by, first, paying prisoners to work, second, by devising a prisoner cell phone system. Cell phone that are incapable of internet access, photo taking, photo and text receipt could be leased to prisoners, with, say, a 300 minute per month contract
Each prison could have a cell tower, and the prisoner phones activated on the prison cell system. All this is possible in the 21st century.
I could go on and on with my observations, but it would not amount to much. So, I'm stuck in the pot and pan scullery. Maybe I'll see about a butcher job. I'd be good at that. I like the cold. And I am not afraid to work.
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