314 | Another Day at the Office

January 19, 2014
Sunday, 8:00 p.m.
Letter #314: Another Day at the Office


Dear Family,

My usually “normal” life here has been completely turned upside down. I feel so often these days as if I’ve been thrown onto a wild horse, and I have to just survive the eight seconds before I get ejected from the saddle. I’m not used to this, and I haven’t trained for this, so it’s a bit freaky and unsettling, all at the same time. I’ll explain.

My cellie, Joe, seems to make friends with everyone here: no matter their color, or previous gang affiliation, or current gang affiliation, he gets in close with them. Me, I’m nice to everyone, so I, too, make friends and just about everyone is nice back to me. The difference, is that I rarely hear about or know about the criminal activities going on here.

Every once in a while, I’ve been offered a cellphone to purchase or use, alcohol to drink, or porn to look at—each item illegal contraband and usually brought in by “dirty” guards who get paid well for violating the terms of their employment. However, I’ve never been aware of the rampant drug use in prison until recently.

As I’ve made inroads into the lives of more inmates, I hear of their struggles with the very vices that brought them to prison in the first place. When I’m trying so hard to build a new life for myself in Christ and encourage others to do likewise, it is extremely frustrating that staff compromise the safety and security of this place (drug deals done via cellphone cause major money issues here, often leading to violence).

I’ve done what I could in the past, resulting in at least one staff member getting caught, but the problem persists. Low wages and a massive potential for financial gain fuel the contraband market.

Now that I’m with Joe, I started hearing from him about all kinds of crazy stuff going on here—and surprisingly, he wanted to do something about it. He’s made thousands of dollars on drugs in prison, but he’s done. Now, as he puts it, he wants to contribute back a bit to society by helping put a stop to the black market of drugs in prison. I agreed to help him by planning how we could do it and coordinating with the prison staff to put a squeeze on the drug trade here.

First, I spoke with our unit manager, then, when the email he sent to the STG unit (all-black uniformed special task force/gang unit) didn’t seem to get a response, I spoke with a lieutenant, who said he’d email them.

Days went by, and I faked a trip to Medical for a splitting headache. I slipped a note to the lady behind the window in the waiting area, and she immediately took me to a holding cell in the back, where I sat until a captain came to speak with me. I told him where drug needles were located, which inmates were getting drugs in through visiting, etc. Then I slept for 20 minutes so I looked terrible and left with Tylenol.

The guys in my pod all believed my story when I came back. I have to be careful, since the saying is true: “Snitches get Stitches.” After hearing nothing for a few days, I returned to Medical and met with another Lieutenant and another Captain. They assured me they’d work on the information, but still nothing.

Finally, I told an officer I could trust that it had been two weeks since I first told my unit manager of drugs currently in our unit. She set up a meeting directly with the STG unit, who met with me in the library during count, while everyone else was in their cells. The STG officer needed me to identify the top drug dealers on a picture roster, so he dismissed me, and we reconvened in the back of Medical that afternoon. I left with medical supplies and a doctor’s statement so as not to arouse suspicions.

Just yesterday, the young man I’d recently met with about his out-of-prison plan “rolled it up”—he went to the staff and asked to be placed in “the hole” for his own protection. It turns out he owes over $900 for drug debts. My cellie and I were closest to him, and we were shocked. Now we’re even more determined to help put an end to all this garbage. This is gonna be the longest eight seconds of my life, but I’m ready for it. God is in control!