246 | Reforming the Reformers?

October 11, 2012
Thursday, 4:00 p.m.
Letter #246: Reforming the Reformers?


Dear Family,

One crazy fact of prison life is how quickly the neighborhood changes: day to day, men are transferred, released, and replaced with a steady flow of new arrivals, either fresh gang dropouts or guys who just got sentenced. The dropouts transfer from the mainline yard to ours and usually take a bit of time to get used to our typically nonviolent program.

Yet, even though we inmates transfer often, the staff has a much higher turnover rate. This is due in part to the crazy, constantly changing work schedule that makes being at the prison part of their life, which leaves little room for anything else. And, in great numbers, staff members get caught up in showing favoritism to inmates, over-familiarity, and inappropriate conduct.

In my pod of 120 guys, I’ve often seen unprofessionalism from staff to inmates—and vice versa—but it is so common and expected that it didn’t warrant telling the top prison brass. Plus, there is no telling how a tattletale will be treated by fellow inmates or by staff. So, we learn to keep our mouths shut.

Cops bring in all kinds of items for inmates: food, alcohol, cell phones, and porn. Just this past week, my Correctional Counselor—the same one who commended me for exemplary behavior earlier this year—was walked out of the prison, escorted by the Investigative Squad. Among other things, he’d been letting his favorite inmate use his computer, unsupervised, to update Facebook and Twitter accounts! (I imagine a sample Tweet: @KrazyKillah OMG my boss just took the #WalkOfShame! No more lavish gifts like it’s the #Emmys!)

Counselor Roberts’ firing was just the latest in a constant stream of dismissals of staff members who abuse their position and lose the right to be in the corrections industry forever. The sad fact? While the official counselor and other staff members are bringing in cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, and porn, I end up meeting with the very same inmates they think they’ve “helped.” This past week, one of my Exit Strategies students told me about staff members who had brought him these items recently. It was a losing battle, trying to encourage him to stay away from wrong substances and influences as he prepares to leave prison someday. How can I help someone make positive changes when he sees no immediate gratification or benefit?

Our Case Manager, Ms. Cully—C/C Roberts’ boss—held a “Town Hall Meeting” in our pod to address Roberts’ departure. Rather than decry his actions as dishonorable and immoral, she made nonsensical statements like these: What happened, happened; It is what it is; Whatever you think happened or whatever you’ve maybe heard, you keep to yourself; and It’s out of our hands. Worse, she passed up the opportunity to make a strong moral point and instead focused on the tragedy of C/C Roberts no longer being with us, even equating it to—in her words: It’s like a death in the family.

Really? A death in the family? Because I can assure you that I did not receive funeral notification, an invitation to eulogize, or a request to write an honoring song for the departed. And I lost no tears over Mr. Roberts! I pray his replacement is God-fearing and pro-rehabilitation.

I was surprised on Saturday with a short two-hour visit by the very sweet Monte and Marci Dauer, longtime family friends who made a point of getting approved to visit me and made room in their very busy travel schedule to stop in to talk and pray with me. I was blessed by their visit, and they said the visit “exceeded their expectations.” It must have been the desert mural on the wall of the visiting room.  🙂

I thank God for faithful friends and family like you who care about what God is doing on the inside. Thank you for your prayers!