273 | The Staff That Doesn’t Comfort Me

April 14, 2013
Sunday, 5:30 p.m.
Letter #273: The Staff That Doesn’t Comfort Me


Dear Family,

You may remember several months ago when I wrote about the frustration I felt over contraband items—drugs, alcohol, porn, cellphones, etc.—being smuggled into the prison by correctional staff. I’ve had goal-setting sessions with other inmates, planning for what they’ll do to prepare for release and what they’ll do post-release, what I call “Exit Strategies.” Several guys have told me how staff members have supplied them with these contraband items, and in other meetings, I’ve been asked if I wanted to buy an iPhone ($300) or other items. Knowing how these items keep prisoners in the same frame of mind as when they first committed crime, I’ve tried hard to play undercover detective and bust the responsible people. The crazy part is, you can’t trust many of the staff members.

Some, if they found out I was trying to shut down the flow of contraband, would tell other inmates so I could be dealt with. So, I took my time, going so far as to express an interest in acquiring a few cellphones. I hoped I could draw out the staff member to deal with me directly. l eventually found someone here I felt I could trust, and I had a couple private meetings with them to discuss what I’d found out. Gratefully, they were able to narrow down the suspects and caught the woman who had been bringing in phones, and the phones were found as well.

At the same time, I made a formal complaint in person and via letter about the inappropriate conduct of our pod’s Case Manager, Ms. JohnJulene Cully (we know her only as Ms. Cully). Besides a myriad of ethical violations, favoritism, and laziness, Ms. Cully has a vulgar way of expressing herself, both while teaching her “Pre-Release” class and while speaking one-on-one.

I’d personally experienced the disgusting sexual comments she’d make when I volunteered to co-lead her class, but I soon heard from guys in my pod about her other overtly crass behaviors. Each one told me how uncomfortable and violated they felt as Ms. Cully would unlock their cell, walk in, and make suggestive comments. And each one told me that they would never tell any staff member about it, for fear of what Ms. Cully would do to them if she found out.

I tried to see if we could all file a group complaint. I didn’t mind having my name on it—but none of the guys who had been touched by her or verbally harassed would add their names. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a way for an inmate to complain about a staff’s abuse without that staff member finding out. As our all-powerful Case Manager who can ship us off to another compound, put us in “the hole,” or take away all our property, it makes you hesitant to report anything against her. Even though the staff member I told said it was obvious Ms. Cully was engaging in sexual abuse, she could do nothing without the cooperation of other inmates.

Well, good news finally came this week: Ms. Cully is accepting a job at another CCA correctional facility. We’re all so happy. And, her replacement she’s been training? An older man who usually worked the night shift as an officer in my pod. He looks just like George Bush, and has always been kind and professional. I asked him once what he’d spent his career doing, prior to working corrections, since he seems smarter than the average guard, and he really seems to care about people. He smiled. “I was a pastor at a church for 30 years.” I thank God for taking care of me!