Who are the real sociopaths in prison?
‘[Prison administrators are]… reducing necessary human services inside prisons such as needed medical care, [and] eliminating basic commodities like toilet paper and tampons.’
Anything most corrections personnel can do to make life more miserable for a convict, in America, they are always eager to do. Sociopathic behaviour is not limited to prisoners. You can find as much – if not more – of such behaviour in the keepers as in the kept.
When I read Professor Thompson’s essay, her words made me feel her unusual insight into what prison in America really is all about. Here at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison they even withhold hand soap (we are supposed to get one bar a week along with a roll of toilet paper and razor).
Think about that for a moment: something no-one can do without – a bar of soap – is denied men, women and children in scores of Georgia’s prisons, frequently! The hand soap is made by Georgia’s so-called ‘Georgia Corrections Industries’. It is my opinion that when a state as small – in population – as Georgia has 40 prisons, prison becomes an industry, not a crime-reduction alternative. In such an industry, misery becomes a revenue stream that all kinds of low and high politicians cannot wait to jump into. In this fashion, prisons and prisoners become commodities. Recently, I asked Lieutenant P if she could ‘please get me some soap’, She replied, ‘We ain’t got none… in the whole institution.’
In the grand scheme of things, denying prisoners a bar of soap reads harmlessly, but consider this: Mondays through Thursdays the prison’s administrators conduct tour-groups in the prison so that the taxpayers can see what is being done with their tax money. Taxpayers are led through hallways and cell blocks that are so clean they put to shame the food trays we are forced to eat off. The floors of such cell blocks NEVER GO WITHOUT SOAP AND WAX! Sometimes prisoners can hear a surprised tour-group member declare in awe, ‘…everything is so clean!’ All the while some prisoners do not have soap to shower with.
Of course, my point is that the prison’s floors and corridors get much more ‘humane’ treatment than the prisoners. Consequently, tour-group members leave this prison as witless-conspirators in the various ongoing frauds the prison administrators are quietly perpetrating while dehumanizing the prisoners in a host of physical and emotional ways.
Earlier this year it took over a week to get a letter/package weighed, certified and assessed for postage cost – in the past there had been a concern about timely access, but conscientious-professionalism is no longer attainable here, despite the mural on the wall that touts Integrity and Professionalism. You can count those staff members who have integrity and professionalism using your two hands, only. There are hundreds of people working here.
I dare not name the handful of those men and women who treat us as they should. If I did, the unprofessional riff-raff among their work colleagues would subject them to harassment and ridicule. You see, the riff-raff think that those who treat prisoners humanely are ‘soft’.
On a day in June last year, a Correctional Officer refused to go and get the portable US Mail Box. It was on a Friday. I needed to mail a letter to the Cobb County Superior Court, and my lawyer. Let me quote the rules and regulations as relates to that day and my request:
Dispatch of outgoing inmate/probationer mail: On the last work day of each week, privileged mail will be picked up at both 1:00am and 1:00pm, and will be dispatched from the facility/centre that same day to the United States Post Office, in time for forwarding…
Concerned that if I did not protest about the Correctional Officer’s behaviour he would be encouraged to do it again, I wrote a Grievance about it.
I made repeated efforts to find out the status of that Grievance over the course of 120 days. Eventually, a Counsellor instructed me to write to the Grievance Co-ordinator. A week later I got a note from him, indicating that he had ‘no record’ of my having written a Grievance on that day.
Approximately five months later the Correctional Officer, who had since been promoted to Sergeant, made an attempt to foist his revenge on me for my Grievance by writing an entirely false Disciplinary Report Worksheet (DRW) on me. The best way to present what he attempted to do is for me to first share my own words that I wrote in response to his DRW, when I filled out all of the true details on my witness statement:
On 24 October 2014 at approximately 07.40 hours I asked G-3 Cell Block Officer W if I could go to the G-Corridor Gate to speak with Sergeant C about getting some toilet paper [because I] had diarrhoea; and I have [an ongoing] diverticulosis – the condition had ruptured and bled. The Sergeant et al were viewing a magazine as Sergeant C sat atop the Corridor Desk.
Seeing that the sergeant was not going to come to the gate to talk with me I said – in a civil and respectful manner – Sergeant, I need to either go to the Medical Section or be given some toilet paper. If I can get some clean toilet paper I will not have to go to the Medical Section because I know [exactly] what my problem is.’ The sergeant continued sitting atop the desk as I added, ‘Sarge, I’m having to wipe myself with dirty wet rags and then washing them to use again.’ He replied, ‘I’ll get you some toilet paper.’ I said, ‘Thank you’ and returned to the cell.
Several hours later the Sergeant and Officer entered G3-Cell Block to conduct the midday count and pick up the mail. I asked Sergeant C for toilet paper again after I put my [outgoing] mail [in] the US Mail Box Officer W carried. The sergeant assured me he [had] more toilet paper as he stood in front of Cell #80… meanwhile, I directed his attention to the wet half of a towel on the floor, drying for my next use. I also thanked him again [even though he still had not given me any paper yet].
Thirty-five minutes later (still without toilet paper) I asked Officer W if I could go to the Corridor Gate. I was [struggling] to keep my bowel in check. Officer F had just completed her walk on G3’s catwalk when I got to the Corridor Gate. When she came by the gate [I was standing behind] I asked her if she ‘could give me a roll of toilet paper’.
She replied, civilly and respectfully, ‘No. The Corridor Officer would have to do that.’ Immediately thereafter Officer C walked by, but when I asked her if she was ‘the Corridor Officer’, she said, ‘I’m not the Corridor Officer; W is.’
Then Sergeant C appeared. As he walked through the G-Unit Entrance Gate, past G-3 Corridor Gate – as if he was headed upstairs or over to G-4 Cell Block, he looked at me: in complete silence I stuck my arm through the bars and pointed to where I thought the toilet paper was, near the SE corner of the desk. Sergeant C became both belligerent and irate when he said that I was ‘being disrespectful’.
I [continued] in a civil and respectful manner – because he clearly was trying to bait me – I said, ‘That’s not true. Can I get the toilet paper?’
He replied, ‘If you keep on talkin’ I won’t give you no paper!’
I gave no response. He then added, ‘In fact, get your ass back to your cell!’
I turned half way around to leave, but only then did I notice another prisoner standing about four feet behind me. Without moving my feet I turned my head back toward Sergeant C and asked him, ‘What did you say?’
The Sergeant reiterated a slightly different version of the same thoroughly profane message, to wit, ‘Take your ass back to your cell!’
When I walked around and past [the other prisoner] on my way back to Cell #80, I asked him, ‘Did you hear and see any of that?’
He replied, ‘Yeah.’
I asked, ‘Would you write a witness statement for me?’
He said, ‘Yeah.’
There is nothing Sergeant C’s Disciplinary Report Worksheet says against me that is even vaguely true:
10-24-2014 at 11:45 hrs. [by] Sgt C and Lieutenant B, and W/COII.
On October 24, 2014… I was assigned to G-House as Supervisor. When Inmate Jones Brandon CDC#400574, a UDS inmate in G3-80, came to G3 gate telling me in a disrespectful manner to give him some toilet paper. I told inmate Jones that he is not going to tell me what to do and that he needs to come to me with respect. Inmate Jones continued to be disrespectful towards me. I then instructed inmate Jones to go to his cell and lock down, inmate Jones then walked away from G3 gate and then returned to G3 gate. I then instructed inmate Jones to go lock down. At that inmate Jones went to his cell [sic].
So much for what is passing for bureaucratic-‘professionalism’ here.
Brandon Astor Jones welcomes letters from readers. His address is:
Brandon Astor Jones, I.D. No. 400574 (G3-81)
Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison
Post Office Box 3877
Jackson, Georgia 30233
Help us keep this site free for all
New Internationalist is a lifeline for activists, campaigners and readers who value independent journalism. Please support us with a small recurring donation so we can keep it free to read online.